Although Greek authorities say the child taken from a Roma encampment appears to be at least two years older than Kansas City’s Lisa Irwin, her parents were hopeful Tuesday that the child known as Maria is their missing daughter.
“We’re trying not to get our hopes up too much, but we are very hopeful that she could be Lisa,” said the missing girl’s mother, Deborah Bradley.
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Federal investigators in Kansas City said they have been in contact with authorities in Greece after receiving calls once pictures of the girl found with a Gypsy couple appeared in the media.
“We are following up on those calls by reaching out to the Greek authorities just like we would with any investigation by reaching out to our law enforcement partners,” said FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton of the Kansas City office.
The disappearance of Lisa Irwin, reported Oct. 4, 2011, remains an open and ongoing investigation, Patton said, and investigators continue to follow up on leads and tips. She declined to discuss specifics of what the FBI shared with Greek authorities.
An international search is underway for Maria’s biological parents after she was found in the custody of a couple in a Gypsy encampment that police raided near Farsala, Greece. The girl’s DNA shows she is not the couple’s child.
A dental exam indicates the girl in Greece is 5 or 6 years old, according to the charity that is caring for her. Lisa Irwin would turn 3 years old in November.
But Bradley said Lisa was big for her age when she disappeared. She said she and Lisa’s father, Jeremy Irwin, initially were skeptical about a connection but later theorized that Lisa could have grown considerably.
“At first I didn’t think it looked much like Lisa, but then after comparing pictures of Lisa and with her, I started seeing major resemblance and then the height and weight threw me off,” she said. “And then we were like, oh my gosh, this really could be her.”
It’s been more than two years since Lisa, then 10 months old, disappeared from her home in the 3600 block of North Lister Avenue in Kansas City.
Bradley and Irwin say someone broke into their home and grabbed Lisa while Bradley slept. The couple also said they did not harm the child and believe whoever took Lisa is raising her as their own.
The family recently released an age-progression image that shows what Lisa might look like today.
The inquiry into whether Maria could be Lisa was reported to be among eight leads being taken seriously by Greek police, according to The Telegraph in Great Britain.
Bradley said she and Irwin have not given up hope.
“No matter what pops up that says that it may not be Lisa or it may be Lisa, we are still going to check into it just like we do everything else,” she said.”