real life

Do you recognise this kidnapped little girl?

A world-wide hunt is underway to find the parents of this little girl known as 'Maria'. 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.

Authorities fear the Roma gypsy camp is involved in human trafficking.

Maria, who is thought to be five or six years old, was reportedly in a terrible state physically and mentally. She was distressed when taken to hospital but after a bath and some treatment, started feeling better. She is now under the care of a Greek charity and child psychologists.

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

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

The Smile of the Child is the charity taking care of Maria. Spokesperson for the organisation, Panagiotis Pardalis, says they are desperate for information.

"We don't have anything about her origin, so we don't really know anything so everything needs to be clarified."

Maria was found after police raided the gypsy camp to investigate why they had registered so many children. Apparently it is common practice by gypsy camps to maximise benefits they can claim from the state. However the girl clearly didn't match her parents so police removed her from the camp and took her parents into custody.

A lawyer for the couple claim they adopted her from her biological mother, a Bulgarian woman who couldn't care for her. Kostas Katsavos admits the adoption was unlawful, however say they have loved her and cared for her all her life.

In fact, her adoptive parents want her back. "They love her, and they took care as their own child," he said.


The woman was interviewed from her prison cell. She told the Mirror, "We didn't harm her. We love her and she loves us... we gave her everything we could, like we do for our other children."

Authorities have received 8000 inquiries about the girl however only eight are thought to be promising. Four originate from America.

They say the couple in custody repeatedly changed their story about how they got her. Police also discovered a balaclava, weapons, drugs and stolen credit cards at their house.

Two bizarre videos of Maria dancing at the gypsy camp are being slammed, with some saying it looks like the girl was treated like a novelty dancing bear. The Roma camp released the videos to show Maria was happy in their care but this move has clearly backfired.

The case has incited huge interest globally due to the timing of the case. A huge push to find Madeleine McCann is taking place thanks to the BBC Crimewatch episode which sifted through the details of her abduction from a resort in Portugal six years ago. The discovery of Maria has given Gerry and Kate McCann hope that Madeleine will be found.

The Roma gypsy camp is claiming discrimination, saying the girl was happy and well-cared for and should be returned to her adoptive parents. They are confident the birth mother will be found and will verify their version of events. They will face a magistrate next week.

Anyone with information is asked to call "The Smile of the Child" at +30 210 76 09 550 or send an email to [email protected]

Image credit: CNN and Gerry and Kate McCann's blog