DNA tests confirmed Friday a Bulgarian Roma couple living in dire poverty as the biological parents of Maria, a mystery blonde girl discovered last week in a Greek Roma camp.
A photo released by Greek police on October 18, 2013 shows an unidentified 4-year-old blonde girl who was found on October 17, 2013 near Farsala in central Greece
"DNA samples showed that Sasha Ruseva is the biological mother and Atanas Rusev is the biological father of the child called Maria," Bulgaria's interior ministry chief of staff Svetlozar Lazarov told reporters.
"A pre-trial probe was opened on the case against (the mother) for allegedly agreeing to sell her child in Greece in 2009," he added.
The interior ministry and the prosecution have yet to decide if the parents -- who have nine other children and live in the Roma ghetto of the town of Nikolaevo in central Bulgaria -- will be detained, the official said.
Green-eyed Maria was found living with a Greek Roma couple in a camp near the town of Farsala last Wednesday, sparking global news interest and hundreds of enquiries from parents of missing children.
DNA tests showed that the 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman taking care of her were not her real parents.
The couple were accused of abducting the child, prompting an international appeal for help finding her parents.
The two denied the accusations, saying that the little girl was voluntarily handed over to them by her Bulgarian Roma mother who could not care for her.
Following reports in the Greek media pointing to the identity of the mother, Bulgarian police tracked down on Thursday the Bulgarian Roma couple from Nikolaevo.
The woman, Sasha Ruseva, 35, told police that she had given birth to a baby girl while working in Greece several years ago and left it there with her Greek employers when it was seven months old, the interior ministry said.
She said lack of any identification documents for the baby as well as poverty and inability to take care of her many children had prompted her to abandon the child and return to Bulgaria.
She added that she intended to take the girl back but never did.
"We gave the child for free. I did not take any money. I had nothing to feed her," Ruseva told reporters in Nikolaevo on Thursday.
Five of the dark-complexioned, brown-eyed woman's children are also blond, fair-skinned and light-eyed.
The family, which was not present at the DNA results announcement, has disappeared from their home and has not made any statements yet.
Ruseva had earlier declared that she was ready to take Maria back if DNA tests confirmed that she was her real mother.
Greek authorities were yet to comment Friday, while the charity looking after Maria said it would "respect the decision of the prosecutors, whatever that may be".
Children taken away
If the prosecution proves that she sold the baby, she might however face a jail term of between one and six years and a fine of between 5,000 and 15,000 leva (2,600-7,700 euros, $3,500-10,600).
In this case, Maria and the other underage children of the family might be handed over to a crisis centre and later to foster families, Stara Zagora regional social services chief Yana Kaneva told BGNES news agency Friday.
Maria's case has sparked alarm about racial profiling, especially after the removal from their Roma families in Ireland of two blonde children aged seven and two, who were later given back after DNA tests.
"Authorities must take a proportionate, responsible approach to child protection, based on facts and evidence, not on racial profiling," the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) said in a statement Friday.
There are an estimated 10 million Roma living across Europe, who have been "unfairly demonised and scapegoated for centuries," the centre warned.
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