Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

New abducted child cases raise fresh questions on missing Madeleine McCann

Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou with the girl known only as Maria (AP)
A general view of Tallaght Garda station, Belgard Walk, Dublin where the blonde-haired, blue-eyed seven year-old girl was taken before she was put into care after being taken from a Roma family in Ireland
A general view of Tallaght Garda station, Belgard Walk, Dublin where the blonde-haired, blue-eyed seven year-old girl was taken before she was put into care after being taken from a Roma family in Ireland

It is something you would expect to read in a bestselling thriller. A young child is snatched and spirited away, only to turn up years later, living with settled gypsies.

To add a dramatic twist to the tale, the abduction only comes to light through a Facebook message because the child's blond features stood out.

You cannot watch your children 24 hours a day, but as most parents know, unsavoury characters are not lurking at street corners waiting to pounce.

Or are they?

Earlier this week, a haunting picture of Maria, a gorgeous, blue-eyed, four-year-old with blonde pigtails, was beamed around the world, looking wistfully into a camera lens.

This little girl made international headlines when she was taken into care after a raid on a run-down gypsy site in Greece.

It was discovered that Maria was not the child of the Roma couple she lived with. They are now accused of abducting her. Yesterday, a new drama emerged much closer to home, in Tallaght in Dublin. It emerged that a seven-year-old, blue-eyed blond child living with a Roma couple had been taken into care by the HSE after gardai were told by an internet message.

The couple insist that the girl is their daughter and say she was born in 2006. But garda checks at Dublin city hospitals failed to produce satisfactory evidence.

Both these cases will certainly result in people re-evaluating their view of the Madeleine McCann case. I thought over the years that the couple were torturing themselves in continuing their quest.

I wondered would they be better accepting that she was gone and trying to get on with their lives, even for their younger twins.

But now I wonder. Gerry and Kate McCann were always of the view that Madeleine was abducted and it is coincidental that the case of the mysterious child living with the Roma family in Greece emerged in the same week that a UK Crimewatch programme broadcast new e-fits of a man seen carrying a child from the resort.

In the years since she went missing, there have been dozens of 'sightings' of Madeleine and it has been heartbreaking.

In the Republic cases of children going missing are very rare. There have only been two cases that compare – Philip Cairns from Dublin and Mary Boyle from Donegal.

With blood and DNA testing the HSE will soon establish the true identity of the Tallaght girl.

Let's hope there is some mundane explanation to this story.

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