Roma under pressure as 'man DNA tested in hunt for missing Briton Ben Needham'

Evidence has emerged that young man in Cyprus could be British boy that has been missing for 21 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 12:35pm

Greek detectives will carry out DNA testing on a young man living with a Roma family in Cyprus after evidence emerged that he could be missing Briton Ben Needham, it has been reported.

The Mirror in London reported that an anonymous source sent evidence to a lawyer in Kos, including a video which shows a young man aged 20 to 25, with light brown hair and blue eyes, with four other Roma men at a church in Limassol, Cyprus.

The lawyer handed it to the District Attorney of Kos and authorities believe the man bears a great resemblance to the image Scotland Yard released of how Ben Needham, who disappeared from Kos in 1991 aged two, would appear now.

Needham's mother Kerry, who was handed a grainy photograph of the man, said she was encouraged by the breakthrough in the hunt for her son, who would now be 23.

“I’ve seen the picture and believe he bears a resemblance to how Ben might now look," she said.

“As a family we’re greatly lifted by this and we will be in close contact with the Greek authorities to make sure we are kept fully aware of any progress.

“We’ve never given up hope of finding Ben and we are encouraged that the police in Greece are continuing to investigate.”

Doctors have claimed that the blonde hair and fair skin of Greece's mystery girl Maria and several other children of her Bulgarian Roma parents is explained by the genetic condition of albinism.

Sofia medical academy professor Draga Toncheva said: "Albinism is due to a genetic disorder characterised by lack of skin, eye and hair pigmentation. The children that I saw on television carry the signs of this rare condition."

According to Toncheva, albinism resulted from the combination of recessive genetic features from the parents that were passed onto the child.

Albinos usually had very white and sensitive skin that burnt easily in the sun, red or very pale blue eyes, white-blond hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, as well as vision defects such as astigmatism, Toncheva explained.

Maria's appearance had prompted Greek authorities to remove her from the dark-complexioned Roma family she lived with, assuming that she had been abducted.

However, an international effort to find her real parents led authorities to another Roma family in Bulgaria, raising alarm about racial profiling.

On Friday, DNA tests showed that Sasha Ruseva and her husband Atanas were the child's real parents. Both of them have dark complexions and brownish-black hair and eyes.

However, five of their other nine children closely resemble Maria. They are all blond, fair-skinned and freckled, with pale bluish or reddish eyes and white eyelashes.

Atanas's brother Filip has also confirmed that two of their uncles carry the same features.

Maria's real family wants her back, but they fear social services will keep her.

"Give us Maria. We will take her home and share our bread with her," her eldest sister Katia Ruseva said.

"I used to care for my eight brothers and sisters when my parents worked in Greece. When they came back, mum told me they had left a baby there. She did not have the money to pay for its passport," Katia said.

Agence France-Presse