Mystery Blonde Girl: Eight 'Promising' Leads

A charity looking after a young girl who was found living with a Roma family in Greece say they have eight "promising" leads in relation to her case.

Authorities have put out a worldwide appeal to help identify the four-year-old-child - known as 'Maria' - and find her real family.

The youngster was discovered living in squalid conditions in a Roma camp near the town of Farsala on Wednesday after a raid by police looking for drugs and weapons.

It is thought she may have been trafficked or abducted.

South Yorkshire Police have said "there appears to be no direct correlation" between this case and the disappearance of Ben Needham who was 21 months old when he went missing on the Greek island of Koss in 1991.

In a statement they 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."

The Smile Of The Child charity told Sky News it had received more than 5,000 calls from Greece and abroad, and thousands of emails from the United States, Europe and Australia.

It said of the eight "promising" calls, four were from the US, and one each from Sweden, France, Canada and Poland, and the organisation was passing the information to police.

Charity spokesman Panos Pardalis Dresios said the girl, who is in hospital, was playing with her toys and "feeling much better".

He added: "What we're trying to do is for the kid to be calmed down and to play, and the experts will be the ones who will decide how they're going to deal with this."

Maria was found with people who were pretending to be her parents, but DNA tests later proved they were not.

The couple, a 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, were arrested and charged with abducting a minor.

But a man calling himself Kostas, the brother of the 39-year-old male, said Maria was very loved and cared for.

"We got this girl in a very nice way. We raised her. We got her. She was given to us and we raised her," he said.

"She had problems with her eyes. We took her to the doctor, we took her everywhere. We didn't take her to sell her. We loved her so much, with so much passion."

Giorgos Tsakiris, the general secretary of the Roma association in Farsala, said the girl had a good life with the people who were raising her.

He said: "I can tell you better than her other siblings, the biological ones. She spent her days very well and that is why the little girl loves them and what they say about abductions is not true."

After police raided the camp, an officer became suspicious when he noticed Maria bore no likeness to her supposed family.

Further investigations into the couple raised even more suspicions.

Authorities allege the mother claimed to have given birth to six children in less than 10 months, while 10 of the 14 children the couple registered as their own are unaccounted for.

Maria's discovery has given hope to the family of Ben Needham, a British boy who disappeared from outside his grandparent's farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos in 1991.

The news of Maria being found has also buoyed the hopes of missing Madeleine McCann's parents.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, said: "They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found."