First Photos Of Gypsy Couple Charged With Kidnapping Blonde Girl 'Maria'

14/08/2014 16:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

APTOPIX Greece Mystery Girl (In this police handout photo taken on Thursday , Oct. 17, 2013,  Christos Salis, 39, right, and his

Police have released photographs of a gypsy couple who have been charged with abducting 'Maria', the young girl found living in a settlement in Greece.

The dark-skinned, dark-haired 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman, identified as Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, are seen sitting either side of the fair-skinned blonde girl, believed to be aged between four and six years old.

The couple are being held in pre-trial custody on charges of abduction and document fraud following their arrest last week. 'Maria' is being looked after by a charity.

Police raided a Roma encampment near the central Greek town of Farsala and found the girl, who a DNA test has shown is not the couple's child.

They also found 14 fake birth certificates in the couple's home. The case has triggered a global outpouring of sympathy and possible tips to police about the case but no breakthrough yet in identifying the child.

Mr Salis and Ms Dimopoulou, who are also implicated in a string of robberies, have denied any criminal wrongdoing, claiming that the girl was given up by her biological mother, a Bulgarian residing in Greece, two weeks after giving birth in 2009.

"We're talking about a woman who could not raise this child and who gave it to the couple through a third party," said the couple's lawyer Mariatta Palavara.

Another lawyer, Konstantinos Katsavos, insisted: "There was no kidnapping, no robbery, no trafficking."

Maria, who is being cared for in Athens by a charity called Smile of the Child, has been in hospital for observation since the raid last week.

On Monday, dental experts who examined her said the girl was at least a year older than the four years that her Roma parents claimed she was.

Since the weekend, the charity has been inundated with more than 8,000 calls and tip-offs in connection with the case.

Eight credible leads, stemming from pictures and information and ranging from the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, Sweden, France and Poland, have been passed to the police for further investigation, according to officials at the charity.

Officials said that the authorities were examining at least one other member of the couple's extended family, who is suspected of involvement in an international child trafficking operation.

Her discovery has given fresh hope to the families of Ben Needham, who disppeared on the island of Kos, and Madeleine McCann.

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