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10,000 possible clues after mystery blonde girl found in Greece

6:48 PM, Oct 21, 2013   |    comments
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Unidentified 4-year-old girl found living in a Gypsy camp with a couple arrested and charged with abducting her from her birth parent. (Photo by the Associated Press)

Greek authorities trying to solve the mystery of the blonde girl found in a Gypsy camp last week have been inundated with more than 10,000 calls or emails offering potential leads.

"The calls have come in primarily from within Greece," said Panagiotis Pardalis, a communications officer at The Smile of a Child charity. "But emails have come in from across Europe, as well as from the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa."

The child known as Maria "appears to be at peace and is happy," he added. "She is playing and also communicating with the people around her."

He added that the "mystery blonde girl," as she has been dubbed by the Greek media, remains in a hospital where a dental examination showed she is between five and six years old.

Authorities are trying to identify where she originates from.

The girl was spotted peeking out from under a blanket on Wednesday as police swept the Roma settlement for suspected drug trafficking near Farsala, a small town around 170 miles north of the Greek capital, Athens.

She speaks just a few words in the Roma dialect and Greek, and police think she may be of northern or eastern European origin, possibly from Scandinavia or Bulgaria.

DNA tests have shown the couple in the Roma camp who Maria was living with were not her biological parents.

The 40-year-old woman and 39-year-old man have been arrested and charged with abducting a minor, and police are investigating whether the girl was a victim of trafficking.

During questioning, the couple gave at least five conflicting accounts of how the child ended up with them, including that she was found outside a supermarket, police told Reuters.

The woman had two different identification documents and other papers suggested the couple had up to 14 children, but six were registered as having been born within less than 10 months. They received 2,790 euros ($3,800) a month in child benefits, a police source told the agency.

They are expected to appear in a Greek court Monday.

A lawyer for the couple told NBC News' U.K. partner ITV News they were given her as a baby, when she was five days' old, as part of an adoption.

Constantinos Katsavos said the child was passed to the couple by an impoverished Bulgarian woman and that by finding her it will prove them not guilty of abducting a minor.

"It is our effort to find the physical mother," he said. "If the mother is found I think (the verdict against the couple) will be not guilty."

The president of the local Romany gypsy community, Babis Dimitrios also told reporters that children are have not been bought and sold in his town.

"Is the woman who found the child at fault? She should have gone to the police (and say) 'the Bulgarian abandoned the child with me and got up and left,'" he said.

Police have sent Interpol a file with all the evidence they have on the girl, including DNA samples, to seek a possible match with its records on missing children.

The possibility of a smuggling ring bringing pregnant women into Greece from Bulgaria and then putting the children up for sale was also being investigated, according to the Greek state owned news agency, Amna.

"People smuggling syndicates are drawn by huge profits that can be made, while benefiting from weak legislation and the relatively low risk of detection, prosecution and arrest compared to other activities of transnational organized crime," Interpol say on their website.

NBC News

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