About 10 cases of missing children are “being taken very seriously” in connection with the suspected abduction of a girl by a Roma couple in Greece, a spokesman for a Greek children’s charity said Tuesday.
“They include children from the United States, Canada, Poland and France,” said Panagiotis Pardalis of the Smile of the Child charity.
In a case that has generated huge interest in Greece, authorities have charged the Roma couple with abducting the child they call Maria. They appeared Monday in court and were remanded into custody pending trial.
A lawyer for the couple says the pair adopted the child from her biological mother.
The Smile of the Child said the girl, who was found Thursday in a Roma community near Larissa, central Greece, is being cared for in a group home.
Medical tests indicate she is 5 to 6 years of age, slightly older than initially thought, said Pardalis.
Police have said they are suspect the records the couple provided for the child and for other children in their care may be false. In addition to the abduction charge, the couple is accused of falsifying official documents.
Four officials, including the head of the registry office that issued Maria’s birth certificate, have been suspended while a police investigation is under way, the media office of the Athens municipality said Tuesday.
The girl received the document this year, it said. It is unusual for a birth certificate to be issued years later.
Authorities asked questions about Maria because she has fair skin and blond hair, while her parents have darker complexions typical of Roma, a race descended from Indian nomads, who face widespread discrimination in Europe.
Haralambos Dimitriou, head of the local Roma community, said the couple took in the girl because her Bulgarian mother couldn’t keep her. He said Maria was raised like a “normal” child.
Pardalis said Sunday that she was found in “bad living conditions, poor hygiene.”
Calls about the girl
Thousands of calls poured into Greece after authorities released photos of the girl last week.
Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, whose daughter Lisa Irwin was 11 months old when she vanished two years ago from their home in Kansas City, Missouri, asked the FBI to contact the Greek authorities about the case.
“There is no such thing as a tip too small,” said Bradley, whose hopes were raised despite the apparent disparity in age between their missing daughter and the girl found in Greece.
“I am not sure there are enough similarities between the girls,” a federal law enforcement official said. Still, the official added, the FBI is working with Greek authorities to determine whether the girl could be Lisa Irwin.
Authorities released photos of the two adults charged Monday in the case —Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and Christos Salis, 39 — in hopes that the publicity would reach someone who can provide more information about them.
Police said the blond child looked nothing like the man and woman with her, and DNA testing confirmed that they were not her biological parents.