German couple offer to sell their baby on eBay

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A seven-month-old baby has been taken into care in Germany after his parents offered to sell him for one Euro (80 pence) on an internet auction site.

The couple, from the south German town of Memmingen, posted the advertisement to sell their son Merlin on eBay last week after he became "too loud".

Although the child's parents insisted that the offer was a joke, they are now being investigated on suspicion of possible child trafficking by German police.

The boy's 23-year-old mother, Tanja, told the German Bild newspaper : "It was only a joke. I just wanted to see if someone would make an offer. They've taken my son and I've got to take psychiatric tests next week." She added: "I would never give up my beloved Merlin."

The advert, which was entitled "Baby – Pick up in Person Only", offered a starting price of one euro. The full ad read: "Offering my nearly new baby for sale, as it has become too loud. It is a male baby, nearly 28 inches long and can be used either in a baby carrier or a pram."

There were no bidders in the two hours and thirty minutes that the advertisement remained online before being removed.

Renee Beck, a police spokesperson in Krumbach, near Munich, said the authorities were continuing their investigation and had taken the child into the care of youth services. "She said it was a joke," he said, referring to the child's mother. "That's not yet clear. Detectives are investigating on suspicion of child trafficking."

The posting was deleted from the internet auction site and eBay officials assisted police in tracking down the parents.

The alarm was raised after several internet users across Germany spotted the ad.