A Roma couple accused of abducting a mystery four-year-old girl dubbed the "blonde angel" told a Greek court that her biological mother willingly gave her to them as a baby as she could not take care of her.
The discovery of the girl, known as Maria, has riveted Greece and prompted thousands of calls with leads from across the world as authorities try to track down her real parents, as DNA tests have shown she was not born to the Romas.
The case has raised questions about whether children are being stolen to order and whether the couple were part of a wider child trafficking ring - amid deepening mistrust between the Roma community and the Greeks.
The pair were arrested after police, who raided a Roma camp in central Greece last week in search of drugs and weapons, found the girl with pale skin and blue eyes who did not resemble the family she was living with.
With more than a dozen police officers standing guard outside a magistrates court in Larissa, central Greece, yesterday, the couple denied charges of abduction and procuring false documents, saying they took the girl under their care after her mother handed the girl to them shortly after giving birth.
The couple - a 39-year-old man and his 40-year-old wife - were ordered to be held in custody on charges of abducting the child, their lawyer Konstantinos Katsavos said.
They face between 10 and 20 years in prison if convicted.