A Roma couple accused of abducting a mystery four-year-old girl dubbed the “blonde angel” by Greek media told a court that her biological mother willingly gave her to them as a baby because she could not look after her.
The discovery of the girl, known as Maria, has riveted Greece and prompted thousands of calls with leads from across the world as authorities try to track down her real parents, as DNA tests have shown she was not born to the Romas.
The couple were arrested after police found the girl, who has pale skin and blue eyes, during a drugs raid on a Roma settlement.
“It was an adoption that was not exactly legal but took place with the mother’s consent,” Constantinos Katsavos, one of the lawyers representing the 39-year-old man, said on Monday, adding that is what the couple testified in court.
The Roma couple were held in custody pending trial after responding to charges of abduction and procuring false documents behind closed doors as more than a dozen policemen stood guard outside.
So far more than 5,000 people, from Texas to Sweden, have phoned the charity looking after Maria to offer clues or search for their missing children.
The couple faced magistrates in Larissa. Members of the Roma community gathered to show their support and said they were being unfairly stigmatised.
“They are completely innocent. These are all fairy tales and we’re going to prove it to society,” Babis Dimitriou, the head of the local Roma community, told Reuters.
“They accuse the Roma of everything, of stealing, of snatching kids. Do these things only happen among our race? This is a huge insult for us,” he said.
Police have found the woman had two different identification documents and other papers suggested the couple had up to 14 children, but six were registered as having been born within less than 10 months.
“It’s unfair,” a Roma woman who gave her name as Kyriaki said outside the court on hearing the decision to hold the couple in custody. “She raised this child since she was a baby.”