Maria: Was 'Blonde Angel' bought by Roma for £850?
Man tries to blame his wife for 'taking' girl, describing child as a 'bomb'
THE four-year-old blonde girl found with a Roma couple in Greece may have been bought for £850, it has been claimed. And the gypsy accused of abducting her has blamed his wife for taking her in, claiming the girl was a "bomb" he never wanted, the Daily Mail reports.
Hristos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, appeared in court yesterday to be formally charged with child abduction and forging documents. The couple have claimed that they adopted the girl they call Maria from her biological mother.
But the Mail says Haralambos Dimitriou, leader of the gypsy camp where Maria was found, has suggested Salis and Dimopoulou may have paid money for the girl. He said a Bulgarian couple came to the camp in 2009, selling children. Dimitriou was offered a child for £850 but declined.
Maria was found last week during a police raid on the Roma camp in central Greece, the BBC reports. DNA tests have confirmed Maria is not related to the Roma couple, who insist she was given to them legitimately.
Greece has been gripped by Maria's case and the press has nicknamed the girl 'The Blonde Angel'. She is being cared for in Athens by a charity, called The Smile of the Child, which has reportedly received more than 8,000 calls offering information about her identity. Six of the eight "most promising calls" about the girl's identity have been checked out by police and discounted, the Mail says.
Kostas Katsavos, the couple's lawyer, conceded that their adoption of Maria was "non-legal". But he believes the girl's biological mother will be located soon and will verify his clients' claims.
"They love her and they took care of her as their own child," Katsavos told CNN.
Social workers suspect the couple of kidnapping the girl and "sending her out to beg, or involving her in a sex ring", CNN reports.
Maria was found when police raided the Roma camp looking for drugs and weapons. Officers noticed the stark difference between the green-eyed, blonde girl and her parents and "found further discrepancies" when they checked the Roma couple's documents.
The couple had registered different numbers of children with different regional family registries. The woman claimed to have given birth to six children within a 10-month period.
When they were questioned about Maria, the couple gave "constantly changing claims", the police director of Thessalia Province, Vassilis Halatsis said.
The BBC says the case has given hope to the families of British children who have disappeared in Europe. The sister of Ben Needham, a Sheffield boy who was 21 months old when he disappeared during a family holiday on the Greek island of Kos in 1991, said the discovery of Maria gave them "great hope".
A spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of Madeleine McCann, said the case also gave them hope their missing daughter would be found alive. ·