UK & World News
Maria Mystery: No Link With Ben Needham Case
Police say there is no link between the case of missing British boy Ben Needham and the discovery of a young blonde girl found living in a Roma settlement in Greece.
Ben - one of Britain's longest-running missing person cases - was 21 months old when he went missing on the Greek island of Kos in 1991.
The four-year-old girl - known as Maria - was discovered living in a Gypsy camp near the Greek town of Farsala on Wednesday after a raid by police looking for drugs and weapons.
South Yorkshire Police said there appears to be "no direct correlation" between the two cases.
In a statement, the force said: "The case of Ben Needham continues to be investigated by the Greek authorities and South Yorkshire Police continues to support his family.
"No investigation is currently being carried out by the force in light of this recent case and officers from South Yorkshire Police will only become involved should authorities in Greece require our assistance."
A Roma couple accused of abducting the girl are due to appear in court in Greece later.
They are being named in local papers as Hristos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40.
A prosecutor who accompanied police on the raid thought it odd that Maria did not look like her darker-skinned "parents".
DNA tests later confirmed the couple are not her biological parents.
Greek authorities have put out a worldwide appeal to help identify the youngster and find her real family.
Maria is being cared for in Athens by the Greek charity Smile Of The Child, which say they have been inundated with more than 8,000 calls about the girl.
"It is mostly parents whose children went missing and who believe there are many similarities (with the girl)," the charity's director Costas Giannopoulos told the Ta Nea newspaper.
Police have said they would seek assistance from Interpol to identify the girl in a Europe-wide search.
Greek police are looking to question the biological mother, who does not have Greek citizenship according to the couple's lawyers, to confirm the story.
As Maria is being cared for in Athens by the charity Smile Of The Child, the Roma community in Farsala is said to be anxious about the attention the case is attracting.
In a country already devastated by economic crisis, the Roma in the camp make a living selling fruit, carpets, blankets, baskets and shoes at local markets.
They are already considered by some to be social outcasts, thieves and beggars, and now they are worried they will be wrongfully stigmatised as kidnappers and child traffickers.
The president of the local Roma community, Babis Dimitriou, said he hoped there would not be a backlash following Maria's discovery.
"There are no transactions involving children here," he said, adding that the couple cared for the little girl "even better than for their own children".
The Roma in Farsala insist their community is not involved in abductions or trafficking.
But police say they are aware of "dozens" of such cases involving Bulgarian Roma in Greece.
Lieutenant General Vassilis Halatsis said: "We know these cases exist, but they involve Bulgarians, not Greeks like us."
Local resident Christos Lioupis said: "After this event, the police have been searching everyone. Isn't this racist?"