By Renee Maltezou
A second Roma couple have been arrested in Greece on suspicion of abducting a child, just a week after the discovery of a girl dubbed the “blonde angel” made headlines around the world.
Police said on Wednesday the man and woman, both in their 20s, had been charged with child abduction and were expected to respond to the allegations later in the week. The two-month-old baby was found living with them on the island of Lesvos.
“The initial evidence strongly indicates that they are not the parents of the baby,” police said adding one other person had been arrested as part of the same case.
A police official said the couple tried to get a birth certificate for the baby only with a signed statement, as is possible in Greece, instead of producing hospital records, which made municipal employees suspicious.
The Supreme Court has ordered prosecutors across the country to be alert for any discrepancies in birth certificates going back six years after blonde, blue-eyed Maria was found during a raid on a Roma camp in central Greece last week.
Her discovery has raised questions about whether there is a wider child abduction ring – and also lifted the lid on a bumbling bureaucracy and patchy system of controls that allowed the girl to slip through the cracks.
Police say there is evidence the couple used false IDs to register Maria as their own, saying she was born at home.
DNA tests have shown they are not her biological parents. The 40-year-old woman and 39-year-old man, who say the girl was given to them by her mother who could not look after her, have been charged with abducting a minor and detained pending trial.
The case led to thousands to calls to police from people around the world trying to identify her or search for their own missing children.
At the request of the Greek authorities, Interpol has issued a so-called “yellow notice” with the picture of the girl and has urged its 190 member countries to test her DNA profile against their own national database. So far, no match has been found.
“Interpol will make its DNA Gateway available to any member country whose law enforcement agency has been provided with the profile of someone claiming to be a blood relative of the unknown child,” the agency said in a statement.”
The Greek charity Smile of the Child has been looking after Maria since she was found by police last week.
“She is much better. Day after day, she is adapting to the new environment,” charity head Costas Giannopoulos said.
In a parallel case in Ireland, police took a 7-year-old blonde girl living with a Roma family into care on Monday after suspicions she was not a blood relative, a senior police source said.