The biological parents of Maria, the blonde girl found in a Roma camp in central Greece a fortnight ago, previously abandoned another of their children, it has emerged.
Sasha Ruseva (35) and her husband Atanas (38), an impoverished Roma couple from Nikolaevo in central Bulgaria, are being investigated for selling their newborn daughter four years ago while they were working as olive pickers in Greece.
Yesterday, as seven of Maria's siblings were taken into care, it emerged that the parents had also abandoned a baby 15 years ago.
"Maria was not the first child abandoned by the Rusevi family," said Diana Kaneva, the director of social services in the regional capital of Stara Zagora.
"We believe that they left another baby outside a shop in Nikolaevo 15 years ago.
"The baby was only a couple of weeks old and it was left anonymously in a cardboard box," she said.
"That child is now 15 and has been brought up by a Bulgarian family living near Nikolaevo."
It brings the total number of children born to the couple to 11, including Maria, who was left in Greece shortly after her birth on January 31, 2009.
Social services have decided to place under state protection all seven of the children currently living with Mr and Mrs Rusevi in a dilapidated one-room shack within a Roma ghetto.
"It was clear that the children couldn't continue to live in those conditions where they didn't even have beds to sleep in," Mrs Kaneva said.
"Four have been accommodated with foster families, two children will be sent to a state institution and one will be cared for by relatives."
Those taken into care are aged between two and 15.
The couple have two older daughters, 20 and 18, who are both married and have their own families.
Mrs Ruseva insists she did not receive money in return for Maria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)