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Heartbroken parents: is kidnapped gypsy girl our daughter?

Is gypsy girl 'Maria' missing baby Lisa Irwin?

An American couple whose baby daughter disappeared from their Kansas City home on October 4 in 2011 has contacted authorities begging for more information about the girl discovered in a gypsy camp in Greece. After years of wondering what happened to their then 10-month-old, Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley are still holding out hope she will one day be found alive.

Baby Lisa was last seen at 6.40pm on the night of her disappearance when her mother checked on her. At 4am when father Jeremy came home he realised something was amiss. He told police, "many of the home's lights were on, a window was open and the front door was unlocked."

Mobile phones were also missing.

The police investigation turned into a nightmare for the parents. Deborah was accused of being involved in the disappearance of her daughter and a cadaver dog reportedly detected the scent of a dead body near her mother's bed. Police executed a search warrant, interviewed the parents extensively and even subjected them to a lie detector test. They accused Deborah of failing the test and demanded she confess.

During an appearance on the Today Show the distressed mother said, "We just want to make sure that we tell everybody that we're still cooperating. We're still talking to the police. We're doing everything we can to try to find Lisa and bring her home."

They have never given up on their search for their daughter, at one stage hiring a private investigator with donated funds. "My mother's intuition is that I feel like she is OK, and I feel like someone went through so much trouble to get her that they wouldn't hurt her," Deborah told KCTV5.

The Irwins are one of 10,000 families who have contacted Greek authorities inquiring after little Maria. A world-wide hunt is underway to find the parents of this little girl. Police discovered her living in a gypsy camp in Greece with a couple who clearly weren’t her parents. DNA tests confirmed the girl is not related to the couple.

Parents of missing girl Lisa Irwin

She was discovered during a routine police raid on the camp. They were searching for drugs and weapons and spotted her. They questioned her parents who claimed they'd adopted her illegally from a Bulgarian woman. However they have no proof of this.

Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, were then arrested and charged with the abduction of a child, illegally claiming benefits and obtaining a false birth certificate.

Authorities fear the Roma gypsy camp is involved in human trafficking and Maria is the result of a failed baby sale.

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Maria was in a terrible state physically and mentally when she was found but after a bath and some treatment, started to feel better. She is now under the care of Greek charity The Smile of a Child who are managing the search for her real family.

Police are urging the public to come forward with any information they have on the found girl.

Sadly it will take some time to figure out if Maria is baby Lisa but at this stage it doesn't look promising. Maria was initially thought to be four years old however dental studies suggest she is actually aged five or six. Lisa was one when she was abducted. She'd only be three now.

It's just so heartbreaking.

Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou remain in police custody

A lawyer for the Irwin family, John Picerno, said he contacted the FBI on behalf of the parents. "The (FBI) agent has made an official inquiry through governmental channels with the authorities in Greece," he told NBC News. "We are awaiting a response from them, which we anticipate will be forthcoming as soon as possible."

“We enquire about every child that is found and fits the age profile of Lisa,” Picerno told Britain's Telegraph newspaper. “We investigate all leads.”

Out of the thousands of phone calls and emails the charity has received about Maria, eight to ten are being treated seriously and have come from the US, Sweden, Poland and France.

Kostas Giannopoulos, the charity's president, said Maria remains in hospital but is doing well. “She is happy and playing” he said. “She has learned Greek words better than expected so we are very positive.” He did say she is picky about her food and a little stubborn.

Gerry and Kate McCann

Police have sent Interpol a file with all the evidence they have on the girl, including DNA samples, to seek a possible match with records of missing children. They are concerned Maria may have been a victim of a child abduction ring.

And now there is news of a second child being found. On Monday police were tipped off about a blonde haired seven-year-old girl living in the Republic of Ireland with a Roma family. She looks nothing like her brothers and sisters and has been taken into care.

While neither of these children is missing British child Madeleine McCann, each discovery gives parents Gerry and Kate McCann new hope that their daughter will one day be found. Madeleine would be nine, much older than the two girls who have so far been discovered.

Image credit: NBC News