By Simon Murphy on October 18, 2013—
“The first pictures of the gipsy camp where an abducted four-year-old girl was rescued in Greece emerged yesterday as the international appeal to identify the child continued.
The discovery of the blonde, blue-eyed girl, who police believe may be from northern or eastern Europe, gives hope that Madeleine McCann may also be found alive.
Last night, the girl – known only as Maria – was safely playing with other children at a house run by Greek charity The Smile Of The Child, which is caring for her.
The authorities are sure she does not belong to the adults she was living with, and her nationality and the circumstances under which she left her real family remain a mystery.
Maria was found last Wednesday in a Roma settlement in Farsala, central Greece, after a police officer became suspicious because her pale complexion and blonde hair stood out during a routine raid on illegal activities.
DNA tests proved she was not related to the couple with whom she was living.
A 39-year-old man and a woman, 40, have been charged with abducting a minor.
Police have requested assistance from Interpol.
Photographs of the girl suggest her hair may have been dyed when she was younger as the bottom half of her plaits are brown.
Maria only speaks Roma but appears to understand Greek and is also being communicated with using sign language, according to staff at The Smile Of The Child.
One employee told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The little girl was terrified when she first came to us and didn’t talk at all, but she is now calm and has been playing with the other kids.’
Panayiotis Pardalis, a spokesman for the charity, said: ‘It was obvious that she was not a Roma girl. She was afraid and under some psychological pressure when she arrived.
‘She was living under bad conditions and was very dirty, but is now safe.’
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 Greek television.
Police believe up to ten more children found at the camp may be the victims of a trafficking ring.
Delphine Moralis, secretary general of Missing Children Europe, said: ‘This case is very unusual in that we’re looking for the child’s family, rather than the child.’
She said The Smile Of The Child, a member organisation of Missing Children Europe, have several houses in Greece where they take children ‘who have nowhere else to go’.
Maria’s discovery gives fresh hope for other British families with missing children, including the tragic case of Ben Needham, the Sheffield boy who went missing in Kos in 1991, aged 21 months.
Ben’s sister, Leighanna, said the discovery was ‘very significant to Ben’s case’.
‘It gives us great hope that one day this will be Ben.
Child trafficking and illegal adoption in Greece has been pretty high and that’s exactly what they thought had happened to Ben – that he was taken for a childless family and passed through gipsy camps,’ she told the BBC.
Maria was found just days after the Metropolitan Police revealed the results of a major review of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.“
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