ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities launched an international appeal on Friday to help identify a 4-year-old blonde girl allegedly snatched from her parents by a couple with whom she was found living in a Gypsy settlement.
Police are trying to establish why the girl was living with the couple, who are also accused of falsifying identity and family certificates — with the mother claiming to have given birth to six children within a total of less than 10 months.
The child was found Wednesday near Farsala in central Greece during a nationwide crackdown on illegal activities by Roma, also known as Gypsies. Police say they also found drugs and unregistered firearms in other parts of the settlement, which is about 280 kilometers (170 miles) north of Athens.
But the blonde, pale-skinned and blue-eyed girl stood out. She bore no resemblance to the Greek couple, a 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, who were arrested and charged with abducting a minor. Police said DNA testing confirmed that they weren't related.
"Her features suggest that she might be from an eastern or northern (European) country," regional police chief Panayiotis Tzavaras said.
Police have notified Interpol for assistance.
The suspects allegedly offered conflicting accounts — that the girl was found in a blanket, was handed to them by strangers or had a foreign father.
The police statement said the couple claimed to have a total 14 children, and had registered different numbers with authorities in three different parts of Greece. Officers found three minors living with them in the settlement who appear to be their children — although that hasn't yet been verified by DNA testing.
The girl is in the care of the charity "A child's smile," which said Friday it has sought the assistance of European and global groups for lost or abused children in tracking her parents.
Charity director Costas Giannopoulos said the child was undergoing medical examinations.
"We are shocked by how easy it is for people to register children as their own," he told private Skai TV. "There is much more to investigate, there are other registered children that were not found in the settlement, and I believe police will unravel a thread that doesn't just have to do with the girl."