Roma couple explains their side of mystery girl story

25.10.2013 15:30

LARISSA, Greece – The lawyer for the
Roma couple accused of abducting the
little blond, blue-eyed girl who has
become known around the world as
“Maria” says her clients say the girl’s
real mother is a Bulgarian Roma
Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria
Dimopoulou, 40, said they were
Maria's parents until DNA tests
revealed they were not biologically
Now the couple says that a prostitute
and her pimp/boyfriend, “Michaelis,”
were looking for a home for the
unwanted baby among local Roma
families and they could not resist the
urge to help the baby, according to
their lawyer Marietta Palavra, who
spoke to NBC News in an exclusive
‘I cannot just leave it’
Palavra, who at times became
emotional during the interview, said
the couple initially did not want the
infant Maria because they already had
five biological children of their own.
Palavra said Salis, who police say had
been arrested for armed robbery in
the past, was adamantly opposed to
taking in another child. He said he felt
it would be like "bringing a bomb into
the home” because eventually people –
and police – would notice, and ask
But Palavra says his wife, Dimopoulou,
persisted, once she held the baby who
they say was brought to their home by
both the Bulgarian woman and her
Greek Police via Reuters
Eleftheria Dimolpoulou, 40, and Chr
Salis, 39, are seen with "Maria" in t
image distributed by Greek police.
were charged with abduction and
document fraud after police raided
Roma camp last week looking for dr
and weapons. A suspicious prosecut
accompanied police on the operatio
thought it was odd that the girl loo
nothing like her parents.
"She saw that it looked like a Barbie
doll, an amazing Barbie doll. And it
was crying in her arms," Palavra said.
"And she thought, 'I cannot just leave
it. I don't want it to die or to fall into
very bad hands. That's why I decided
to take it.' That is what she said."
The last time the couple saw the
biological mother, they say was about
a year ago when she stopped by to see
Maria and wave to her.
The couple’s version of events comes
amidst reports that DNA taken from
the girl does not match anyone in
Interpol’s global database of missing
people in 190 countries, officials said.
One of their own
The child was well cared for by her
new family, Palavra said, insisting there
is no evidence she was ever sent out
begging, as the charity currently caring
for her has speculated.
Palavra described a heartbreaking
scene when Maria was removed from
Salis and Dimopoulou – saying it took
several police officers to separate her
from them. When one officer gave
Maria some chocolate to try to calm
her down, allegedly the first thing she
did was to give some to Dimopoulou,
in an attempt to comfort her.
Their lawyer said the couple has been
extremely worried about Maria, and
crying in jail where they could now
stay for close to a year, awaiting trial.
She said that while Dimopoulou had
not stayed in touch with the biological
mother, she had a phone number for
the boyfriend Michaelis, and spoke to
him from jail Sunday.
But since then, Palavra said both the
mother and Michaelis have been
"Probably because the biological
mother of Maria is in panic, too,"
Palavra said.
Police would not confirm local news
reports that they are now actively
seeking a Bulgarian woman in the case
– but they did agree in a phone
interview with NBC News that the
couple's story "could be possible."
"Most of the Roma people here have
not gone to school, at all," Palavra
said. "This couple doesn't know the
alphabet….They could not even write
their own signatures.
“When the investigation started, they
didn't know what to do. They felt a lot
of pressure and panic, so they started
making up stories.”
Since then, Palavra said, they have
given investigators extensive detail
about their story, including detailed
physical descriptions of both people
allegedly involved.
No match yet
But, what about the 14 children, in
total, that police have said Salis and
Dimopoulou officially registered as
their own? And have collected
thousands of dollars each month in
state benefits for? Palavra declined to
respond, saying police are investigating
Palavra said she feels the need to be
the voice of this family whose story
she has come to believe.
"As a mother first, and a lawyer
second, I would never have taken the
case if I believed they had stolen this
child. I would have actually accused
them, and felt bad about them for
doing so."
If the couple's story does turn out to
be true, this would of course mean
that Maria had not been abducted –
and is not some other desperate
family's missing child.
"If the biological mother can be found,
first of all, all over Greece and all over
the world there will be relief that this
girl will have an identity,” said Palavra.
“Secondly, what the couple is saying,
that they didn't steal the baby, will be
immediately proven, though they are
accused of other kinds of crimes, like
illegal adoption. But a lot of parents
around the world will know that this is
not their missing child."