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Gypsy Culture And Stolen Children
by Carol J. Williams
Greek police announced Friday that they were seeking the biological parents of a blond, blue-eyed girl about 4 years old who was found during a raid two days earlier on a Roma camp in central Greece, news media reported from Athens.
The child, who was called Maria, was spotted by a female prosecutor who accompanied police on the raid and became suspicious of the girl's origins because she looked nothing like the couple who initially claimed to be her parents, the ekathimerini news site reported.
DNA testing of the child and the couple caring for her showed they weren't related, the news website said.
A 40-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man have been arrested on suspicion of child abduction, and authorities were looking into the possibility that the suspects were involved in child smuggling. The couple had registration documents for 14 children but only four were found at the camp, ekathimerini said.
At least some of the documents appeared to be falsified because they indicated the woman arrested had given birth six times within 10 months.
Police chief Vassilis Halatsis of Thessalia Province, the jurisdiction where the camp was raided Wednesday in the central town of Farsala, told the BBC that the couple gave conflicting accounts of how they came to have the child in their custody. The couple said she was handed to them by strangers, that she was found under a blanket, and that she had a foreign father, accounting for her Northern European appearance.
Marietta Palavra, a lawyer for the detained Roma couple, was quoted by the Associated Press in Athens as saying the girl was taken as an act of kindness through an intermediary when she was just a few days old.
Palavra observed that Roma and other Greeks have been known to make multiple registrations of their children to get more welfare benefits.
"Just because [the suspect] had forged documents, it doesn't make her a kidnapper,” Palavra told the AP. “The couple loved the girl as if she were their own."
The best known victim was economist Adam Smith. His first full-scale biographer, John Rae, wrote in 1895:
"In his fourth year, while on a visit to his grandfather's house at Strathendry on the banks of the Leven, [Smith] was stolen by a passing band of gypsies, and for a time could not be found. But presently a gentleman arrived who had met a gypsy woman a few miles down the road carrying a child that was crying piteously. Scouts were immediately dispatched in the direction indicated, and they came upon the woman in Leslie wood. As soon as she saw them she threw her burden down and escaped, and the child was brought back to his mother. [Smith] would have made, I fear, a poor gypsy."