20 Oct 2013

Police issue international appeal over mystery blonde child

Interpol is helping police track down the parents of a blonde girl found at a Roma camp in Greece. The lawyer for the couple looking after her tells Channel 4 News she was “given” to them as a baby.

A file has been sent to Interpol containing all the available evidence including DNA after a girl, being called “Maria”, was found at a Roma gypsy camp in Greece.

Police became suspicious when they discovered a blonde girl with a couple she bore no resemblance to, who claimed to be her parents.

The couple Maria was living with at the camp, a 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman, were taken into custody and charged with child abduction, a worldwide search is under way for her family.

The lawyer for the couple told Channel 4 News that she was “given” to them when she was just five-days-old by a woman who said she had no money to raise her. The couple’s family insist that they loved the girl – who they called Maria – and looked after her properly.

Missing children can still be out there waiting to be found – Clarence Mitchell

The girl can speak just a few words in the Roma dialect and Greek, and police believe she may be from northern or eastern Europe.

Papers discovered at the camp suggested that the couple had up to 14 children, with six registered as being born within 10 months – they received €2790 a month in child benefits.

Ben Needham hope

The mother of British child Ben Needham, who went missing in Greece 22 years ago, said she is “delighted” at the news that a blonde girl has been recovered from a gypsy camp in Greece.

The four-year-old girl, known as Maria, is thought to have been abducted. She was found in squalid conditions living with a couple and 13 other children at a camp near Farsala.

Kerry Needham, whose son was just 21 months old when he went missing on the island of Kos, told ITV: “My family and I are extremely delighted at the news that a four-year-old girl has been found in a gypsy camp in Larissa, Greece.”

“We have always believed that Ben’s abduction was gypsy-related and have had a long ongoing inquiry in Larissa. We hope that the investigation into Ben’s disappearance will now be looked at again.”

The boy’s father Eddie Needham also told ITV: “We’ve always been told over the years it’s impossible for gypsies to hide a European child, well this proves that it’s not.

The parents of missing child Madeleine McCann have also commented on the unusual case, with Clarence Mitchell spokesman for parents Kate and Gerry McCann saying Maria “renewed their hope” that Madeleine would be found.

“They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found”.

Local police chief Vasilis Halastis told Greek TV the case was unprecedented: “We’re always searching for lost children. In this case we’re searching for the opposite: the biological, natural parents.”