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Mystery blond girl found in Greece prompts search for parents

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Sat October 19, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: State news: Woman had 10 registered children in 2 locations; man had 4 others
  • A blonde, blue-eyed girl was found living with a Roma couple she does not resemble
  • DNA testing proved she was not their child, police say, and she's now in the care of a charity
  • The couple posing as her parents have been arrested on suspicion of abducting a minor

(CNN) -- Pale, blond and blue-eyed, the 4-year-old girl looks shyly into the camera.

This is no ordinary photo, though. The little girl pictured is at the center of a mystery.

Police in Greece say they found her Thursday with a Roma couple posing as her parents but have no idea who she is or where her real parents are.

They hope releasing the pictures of her might prompt people to come forward with information.

The girl was discovered during a search of a home in a community of Roma, also known as gypsies, near the town of Larissa in central Greece, police said.

Photo blog: The plight of the Roma

Police first became suspicious because the girl, who is blonde with very pale skin and blue eyes, did not resemble the couple who claimed to be her parents.

When the couple were then questioned, "they changed repeatedly their story about how they got the child," a police statement said, compounding the officers' suspicions.

DNA testing then "showed that there was not any genetic compatibility" between the girl and the 39-year-old man and the 40-year-old woman, the police said, meaning they cannot be her biological parents.

The girl was immediately taken from the couple and entrusted to the care of a charity called The Smile of the Child. The charity said it would look after her "until a solution in the best interest of the child is found."

The two people posing as her parents have been arrested and face charges of abducting a minor, as well as counts of falsifying identity documents, said the state-owned Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

Among the suspect documents found by police was a 2009 birth and baptism registration from Athens authorities, the news agency said.

Handout photo released by Greek police shows an unidentified 4-year-old girl who was found on October 17, 2013 near Farsala in central Greece during a crackdown on illegal activities by Roma.
Handout photo released by Greek police shows an unidentified 4-year-old girl who was found on October 17, 2013 near Farsala in central Greece during a crackdown on illegal activities by Roma.

The 40-year-old woman also had two different valid identification documents and, based on family registration records, appears to have given birth to three children between June and November 1993, and another three children between October 1994 and February 1995, it said.

In fact, the state-run AMNA news agency reported this woman had two family residence registrations indicating she was mother to 10 children -- five girls and a boy in Larissa, plus four girls in Trikala.

The 39-year-old man is registered as the father of four more children.

Greece's government has promised to help the child. In the meantime, the little girl is being given support by a police psychologist, the police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the European Hotline for Missing Children or contact The Smile of the Child.

The girl's discovery will likely prompt speculation she may have been abducted or trafficked -- which, if proven, could serve to fuel prejudice against the Roma community within Greece and elsewhere.

Rights group Amnesty International has called on the European Union to take action to end discrimination against the 6 million Roma, describing them as "the largest and most disadvantaged minority in the region."

In May, Amnesty International said Greece had been found guilty of discrimination against Roma schoolchildren in three separate rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

CNN's Joseph Netto and journalist Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.

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