Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Greece trying to identify girl found in Gypsy camp

ATHENS, Greece — The Greek police raided the camp in search of drugs and weapons, part of a crackdown on illegal activity in the Gypsy community. But during the operation, an accompanying prosecutor noticed something else that stood out: a blond, blue-eyed little girl.

Around 4 years old and going by the name Maria, the girl looked nothing like the couple she lived with, officials said Friday. DNA tests proved she wasn't their child.

As Greek officials now try to figure out the girl's true identity and whether the couple were linked to child trafficking rings.

The child was found Wednesday near Farsala in central Greece. Police say they also found drugs and unregistered firearms in other parts of the Gypsy — or Roma — settlement, which is about 170 miles north of Athens.

The director of Greece's "A child's smile" charity, which is taking care of the girl, praised an observant prosecutor who went on the camp raid along with dozens of police. "She saw a little blond head poking out from under the bedclothes," Costas Giannopoulos told private Skai TV. "It struck her as odd, and that's how it all started."

The couple, a 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, were arrested and charged with abducting a minor. The Greek police have asked Interpol for assistance in helping find the child's real family, while Giannopoulos' charity said it has sought the same assistance from international groups for lost or abused children.

"Her features suggest that she might be from an eastern or northern (European) country," regional police chief Panayiotis Tziovaras said of the girl.

The suspects are alleged to have offered conflicting initial accounts about how they came to have the child — that the girl was found in a blanket, that she was handed to them by strangers or that she had a foreign father.

But their lawyer, Marietta Palavra, said they took her out of charity, through an intermediary, while she was just days old from a foreign stranger who said she could not support her daughter.

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