ATHENS, Greece — The Greek police raided the camp in search of drugs and weapons, part of a crackdown on illegal activity in the Gypsy community. But during the operation, an accompanying prosecutor noticed something else that stood out: a blond, blue-eyed little girl.
Around 4 years old and going by the name Maria, the girl looked nothing like the couple she lived with, officials said Friday. DNA tests proved she wasn't their child, and further investigation raised even more suspicions: authorities allege the mother claimed to have given birth to six children in a total of less than 10 months, while 10 of the 14 children the couple registered as their own are unaccounted for.
As Greek officials now try to figure out the girl's true identity and whether the couple was linked to child trafficking rings, experts are using the case to point out the severe weaknesses in the country's birth registration system.
The child was found Wednesday near Farsala in central Greece. Police say they also found drugs and unregistered firearms in other parts of the Gypsy — or Roma — settlement, which is about 280 kilometers (170 miles) north of Athens.
The director of Greece's "A child's smile" charity, which is taking care of the girl, praised an observant prosecutor who went on the camp raid along with dozens of police. "She saw a little blond head poking out from under the bedclothes," Costas Giannopoulos told private Skai TV. "It struck her as odd, and that's how it all started."
The couple, a 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, were arrested and charged with abducting a minor. The Greek police have asked Interpol for assistance in helping find the child's real family, while Giannopoulos' charity said it has sought the same assistance from international groups for lost or abused children.