Greece girl Maria’s mum: I have many children so I sold some and gave others away
A gypsy claiming to be the real mum of Maria, the “blonde angel” rescued from a travellers’ camp in Greece, was questioned by police yesterday.
Sasha Ruseva, 40, was tracked down to a squalid shanty town in the centre of Bulgaria, 300 miles from where the fair-skinned blue-eyed youngster was found last week.
And she insisted she wanted little Maria back – despite admitting that she had previously sold some of her 10 children and given others away.
She said she had not been able to eat since seeing Maria’s picture on TV this week.
After giving DNA swabs to try to prove her story, she admitted she could not be 100% certain the child was hers.
She explained: “I have many children. I sold some, I gave some away. I was too poor. I don’t know if she is one of them.
“I left a little girl in Greece because we had no food. That was maybe four years ago so she could be mine. I want her back.” Several of Sasha’s children living with her at Gurkovo, in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora region, are albino and bear a striking resemblance to Maria, who was discovered at a Roma camp in Farsala, 180 miles north of Athens.
The impoverished mum claimed she became pregnant with Maria in the summer of 2008, when she was picking olives near the Greek coastal town of Livanates.
Too poor to feed or look after her, she said she gave her away. She denied taking any money, and said she just wanted the child to have a better life. But Bulgarian officials suspect Sasha sold the youngster to the highest bidders – a group of child traffickers.
They believe a shady Bulgarian middleman known as Michalis and his prostitute partner then touted Maria around central Greece before selling her on for 1,000 euros – about £850.
After her grilling by detectives yesterday, Sasha said she regretted her decision to part with her child.
A young man claiming to be one of her sons said she had been weeping constantly since seeing the youngster’s photo.
He said: “This is our Maria.”
The revelations add weight to the story told by Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and husband Hristos Salis, 39 – the couple who had Maria.
They are in custody awaiting trial on abduction charges. They admitted buying Maria but claimed it was adoption in a “non-legal way”.
Detectives believe the couple were planning to put the youngster up for sale as a child bride. In some Roma communities girls commonly marry at 12 and their families get a hefty dowry from the new in-laws.
Fair-skinned Maria would have been a prized “investment”.
The youngster’s rescue came as another Roma couple, in their 20s, were arrested in Greece on suspicion of abducting a two-month-old baby.
And earlier this week there were claims that missing British boy Ben Needham, who vanished from Kos as a 21-month-old in 1991, was once held by gypsies at the same camp where Maria was found.
Ben’s mother Kerry, 41, claimed the sighting, reported in 1996, was never properly followed up by police.
She said yesterday: “The Greek authorities always kept telling us, ‘Gypsies don’t steal babies’.
“Now we know they do. We are very optimistic this new information may help us find Ben.