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Updated: Fri, 25 Oct 2013 06:40:01 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

'Blond angel' possible mother charged after DNA test



This blond, blue-eyed girl, believed to be aged five or six, was found living with a Roma couple in central Greece. Greek police are trying to identify her on suspicion that the child may have been abducted from her parents. Greek Police/Reuters

This blond, blue-eyed girl, believed to be aged five or six, was found living with a Roma couple in central Greece. Greek police are trying to identify her on suspicion that the child may have been abducted from her parents. Greek Police/Reuters

A Roma woman in a remote town in central Bulgaria has undergone DNA testing as authorities investigate if she is the mother of a suspected abduction victim in neighbouring Greece known as "Maria," whose case has triggered a global search for her real parents.

Sasha Ruseva, 35, had been tested for a match and served with preliminary charges of child selling, but was not detained, Bulgarian authorities said Thursday.

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Ruseva appeared on Bulgarian television after being questioned at a police station in the town of Nikolaevo, 280 kilometres east of the capital, Sofia, and admitted she once left a baby behind in Greece while working there, but was not sure if Maria was her daughter.

"I don't know if it's her. How would I know that? I didn't take any money. I just didn't have enough money to feed her," Ruseva said speaking on TV, which showed pictures of her and her family outside her mud-floored village home outside the town.

Several of the children seen at the village were barefoot or looked poorly cared for.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids, so I was not able to go back," Ruseva said.

Bulgarian Interior Ministry chief secretary Svetlozar Lazarov said Ruseva had told police she had seen televised pictures of a Greek Roma couple who had looked after Maria and recognized them as the same people with whom she left her child.

A blond-haired and fair-skinned girl aged 5 or 6, Maria, was discovered last week near Farsala in central Greece during a police raid on a Roma settlement. DNA tests on the Roma couple revealed they weren't her parents and the two were charged with abduction and document fraud.

They insist they were looking after Maria with their own five children after an informally arranged adoption.

The girl was placed into the care of a children's charity and her DNA details were provided to Interpol, which has so far failed to match her to any missing children declared in its records, from Poland to the U.S.

2nd couple arrested in separate case

Greek police said Friday they have arrested a childless couple in Athens on suspicion of buying an eight-month-old Roma girl and trying to register her as their own.

The couple arrested in Athens on Wednesday allegedly paid a Roma woman about $5,800 for the baby, a Greek police statement said. Authorities are looking for the baby's birth parents and potential intermediaries in the alleged transaction.

The suspects, aged 53 and 48, were expected to be charged later Friday with child abduction, which under Greek law can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by its parents outside the legal adoption process.

The same charges were brought against the couple with whom Maria was found living in a Roma settlement outside Farsala. They have been jailed pending trial, and are also suspected of fraudulently obtaining birth certificates for a total 14 children.

They insist they were looking after Maria with their own five children after an informally arranged adoption.

Propagating age-old myths about Roma

The case of Maria has drawn global attention, playing on the shocking possibility of children being stolen from their parents or sold by them. But its handling by media and authorities has raised concerns of racism toward the European Union's estimated six million Roma — a minority long marginalized in most of the continent.

"The long-standing problem of negative media reporting on minorities has vehemently re-emerged with the cases of the children found in Roma families ... propagating age-old myths portraying Roma as child-abductors," the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights NilsMuiznieks said in a statement.

In the central Romanian town of Sibiu, Dorin Cioaba, an influential community leader widely known as the king of the Roma, said the Greek couple's story sounded plausible.

"Roma families love their children very much. They would give their lives for their children," Cioaba told Associated Press Television News.

"What I think [happened] is that young woman who abandoned the child gave her to this family knowing that if she leaves her on the street, she will end up in a state orphanage or even taken by someone, sold and trafficked ... Maybe this girl did not grow up in a the best environment. But I don't believe what I have heard that this little girl was traumatized."

On Wednesday, another Roma couple was charged with child abduction on the eastern Greek island of Lesvos, after police found them with a baby boy that was not their own. The couple allegedly told authorities that they were childless and had been given the baby by a Roma woman in Athens who had five children of her own and took pity on them.

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