Couple in Greece mystery girl case deny abduction
Pair deny abduction charges and claim girl given by mother who could not look after her
The young girl at the centre of an alleged abduction in Greece was handed over freely by her biological mother after her birth, a court was told yesterday by the Greek Roma couple she knows as her parents.
The couple, named by police as Christos Salis (39) and Eleftheria Dimopoulou (40), who also has an ID card in the name of Selini Sali (41), made the claim during separate testimony before an investigating magistrate in the city of Larisa, who remanded them in custody after the hearings.
Abduction of minor
They are accused of abduction of a minor and fraudulently obtaining official documents – a birth certificate and tax number for the child.
The girl, named Maria but labelled the “blonde angel” by a Greek daily, was taken into care last week after she was found during an unrelated police operation in their home, located in one of three Roma settlements outside the central Greek town of Farsala.
Concerned that the child bore no resemblance to her parents and her parents’ conflicting and contradictory accounts of her origins, the authorities ordered a DNA test on the girl, the results of which proved that she was not the couple’s offspring.
In their five hours of testimony, which was given in private but quickly leaked to the media, the couple however claimed that the child’s biological parents – who they said were Bulgarian Roma – had entrusted the child to Ms Dimopoulou’s care shortly after her birth.
Mr Sallis is reported to have said that when he had arrived home after a fortnight’s absence, his wife had already been given the infant.
As he had a criminal record, Mr Sallis was anxious not to keep her but his wife insisted, having grown fond of the little girl.
It is understood that the accused named the Bulgarian couple and requested that the authorities track a mobile phone that they claim belonged to the Bulgarian man. However, that can only be carried out with an order from a higher court.
After the hearing, during which the couple were remanded, the authorities took the uncommon step of releasing the names and photographs of the couple, in order, a police statement said, “to protect society, minors, vulnerable or weak population groups and to facilitate the realisation of the state’s claim to prosecute and punish the crime of abducting minors”. In one of the photographs, taken by the police, a nonchalant Maria is shown sitting between the accused.
According to Maria’s birth certificate, which the couple had obtained in Athens, she was born in 2009, making her four years of age.
But yesterday, the charity which is now looking after her said her dental and other examinations point to her being a year or two older.
When photographs were released of Maria on Friday, she quickly became the centre of intense media interest abroad, particularly given the renewed interest in the Madeleine McCann case and an older missing persons case involving a British toddler, Ben Needham, who disappeared aged 21 months during a family holiday on the Greek island of Kos.