Roma Gypsies Fear Reprisals As Couple Charged With Child Abduction Of Four-Year-Old 'Maria'

Roma Fear Reprisals As Couple Charged With Abduction Of Maria

Roma gypsies living in a Greek camp are worried they will be all stigmatised as child traffickers after a couple was arrested and accused of abducting a little girl.

Their community is at the centre of a child abduction case, with a gypsy or Roma couple accused of abducting a blonde, blue-eyed girl, named Maria, who is thought to be aged about four.

The Roma, a poor people in a country devastated by an economic crisis, try to make a living in the camp on the outskirts of the central town of Farsala by selling fruits, carpets, blankets, baskets and shoes at local markets.

The four-year-old was thought to have been abducted after she was found in squalid conditions with a couple and 13 other children at a camp near Farsala in the centre of the country.

A couple Maria was living with at the camp, a 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman, have been taken into custody and charged with child abduction and a worldwide search is under way for her real family. The couple are to appear in court on Monday.

Maria was found after a police officer attending the camp noticed she bore no likeness to her supposed family and investigated further.

DNA tests confirmed his suspicions.

The case "doesn't reflect on all of us," he told the news agency.

Not all of those living nearby suspect the Roma of abduction.

"There is no buying and selling of children here ... The other Roma are not to blame. These are family people. After this event, the police have been searching everyone. Isn't this racist?" Christos Lioupis, a resident of the local community told AP.

Maria's discovery comes days after renewed interest in Madeleine's case across the UK and Europe following a BBC Crimewatch episode that aired on Monday night showing two new e-fits of a suspect.

Detectives investigating the case have since received more than 2,400 calls and emails since the programme aired.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, said Maria had renewed their hope that Madeleine would also be found.

"They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found," he told the Daily Mirror.


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