Photo of mystery girl found in Roma settlement triggers inquiry in Canada
Published Monday, October 21, 2013 6:41AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 21, 2013 7:39PM EDT
Investigators are still trying to establish how a blonde, blue-eyed girl known as “Maria” came into the hands of a Roma couple who claim to have adopted the child, five days after she was found living in a settlement camp in Greece.
Greek police on Monday released photographs of the couple involved in the case. They remain in pre-trial custody without bail.
And while an international search for the girl’s biological parents continues, Panagiotis Pardalis, spokesperson for “Smile of the Child” charity in Greece, said the organization is pursuing a lead in Canada. The charity has received more than 8,000 calls and thousands of emails from people around the world.
“One case we have is a photo of a missing child from Canada and we have forwarded this information to check if there’s any link of Maria,” Pardalis told CTV Toronto’s Ashley Rowe.
However, none of the seven children born after 2006 in the RCMP missing persons database resemble Maria.
Interpol has 38 girls younger than the age of six on its own database, but none of them match the girl’s description, either.
The young girl, believed to be between five and six years old, was taken in the care of “Smile of the Child” charity, and Pardalis said the girl “hasn’t mentioned anything about her family. And this is quite bizarre.”
Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, said she adopted “Maria” as a toddler. A video obtained by Alpha TV shows the young girl with Dimopoulou.
The suspects’ lawyer, Kostas Katsavo, said the couple admitted to adopting the girl in a non-legal way, but said his clients claim to have “never abducted this child.”
Mariette Palavra, another attorney representing Dimopoulo and her partner, 39-year—old Christos Salis, took the girl out of charity from a foreign stranger who was unable to support her daughter.
The couple gave conflicting accounts of how they came to have the girl.
Greek authorities allege Dimopoulou said she gave birth to six children in less than 10 months, and that 10 of the 14 children registered by the couple are unaccounted for.
Authorities are looking into the possibility of fraudulent birth declarations by Dimopoulou and Salis for scams related to possible welfare benefits.
Police say the couple received about 2,500 euros a month in subsidies.
The couple was arrested last week, after police found Maria while performing a search in the Roma camp near the town of Farsala. They are charged with abduction.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Ashley Rowe and The Associated Press