DNA tests have confirmed that a Bulgarian Roma couple are the biological parents of a four-year-old blonde girl found in a Roma camp in Greece last week, solving a mystery that had captured global attention.
Genetic profiles of Sasha Ruseva and her husband, Atanas, matched that of the girl, said Svetlozar Lazarov, an Interior Ministry official on Friday.
The interior ministry and the prosecution have yet to decide if the parents, who have nine other children and live in the Roma ghetto of the town of Nikolaevo in central Bulgaria, will be detained, the official said.
Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating whether the mother, Sasha Ruseva, 35, agreed to sell her child in Greece.
Ruseva denies this, saying she left a seven-month old baby in Greece – where she worked as an olive-picker – in 2009 because she could not look after the child and needed to return to Bulgaria.
She said lack of any identification documents for the baby as well as poverty and inability to take care of her many children had prompted her to abandon the child and return to Bulgaria.
She added that she intended to take the girl back but never did.
“We gave the child for free. I did not take any money. I had nothing to feed her,” Ruseva told reporters in Nikolaevo on Thursday.
The four-year-old, called Maria and dubbed the “blonde angel” by Greek media, was found last week hiding under a blanket at a Roma settlement in central Greece.
DNA tests showed the Roma couple she was with were not her real parents.
Greek authorities were yet to comment on Friday, while the charity looking after Maria said it would “respect the decision of the prosecutors, whatever that may be”.
The case has come to illustrate the plight of Roma gypsies in Bulgaria, many of whom have spent their lives in poverty, are illiterate and have been marginalised by society.
There are an estimated 10 million Roma living across Europe, and they are one of its oldest minorities. The Council of Europe, which monitors human rights, says they are also the most discriminated-against.