LONDON -- DNA tests have confirmed that a Bulgarian Roma couple are the parents of Maria, a blond, green-eyed 4-year-old girl taken by police in central Greece last week from the Roma settlement where she was living, Bulgarian authorities said Friday.
Authorities undertaking a drug raid had arrested a Greek Roma couple, Crhostos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, suspecting Maria had been abducted. The couple, still jailed, said they had informally adopted her from her Bulgarian Roma parents.
The Bulgarian government said the scientific tests showed that Bulgarian Roma Sasha Ruseva, a 34-year-old mother of eight, was the child's mother. Ruseva said she gave birth to a baby girl in Greece in 2009, when she worked there as an olive picker, but knew she could not afford to care for another child and voluntarily handed her over for adoption.
She said that after seeing Maria’s photo, she was convinced the child was hers although she could not be sure without the DNA test.
Salis and Dimopoulou said they cared for Maria as their own, and their lawyer, Costas Katsavos, was quoted in media reports Friday sd saying they “truly and ardently want her back” and plan to begin the legal adoption process when they are released from jail.
Greek authorities’ search for the girl’s parents through widely published photos of her on posters and websites triggered a worldwide response.
Sightings of other children living in Roma communities and whose light-skinned appearance does not match those of their families have sparked widespread controversy as police suspicions of child trafficking clash with accusations of racism.
In two widely reported recent cases in Ireland, children were also seized by police who suspected they were not the natural offspring of their Roma parents. In both cases, police were proved wrong by DNA tests and the children were returned to their families.
Stobart is a news assistant in The Times' London bureau.