Violent crime increased across the country by 14.4% last year. Archive image: Pedro Nunes/ Lusa

76-year-old woman stabbed to death in broad daylight

Killer at large in latest murder in Greater Lisbon area already hit by ‘wave of assaults’

A 76-year-old woman was stabbed to death in broad daylight yesterday in a residential street in Amora, Seixal, within the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon.

The horrific incident – witnessed by at least one other pedestrian, caught on CCTV and ‘overheard’ by a friend who was in a mobile phone conversation with the victim at the time – began after a young man approached, dressed in black and with dreadlocks, and demanded the woman’s handbag. She refused, and was instantly attacked with five stab wounds to the chest and arm.

The young man, described as ‘in his 20s’, “walked calmly off” (with the woman’s bag) while his victim staggered a few steps before collapsing.

Paramedics called to the scene arrived swiftly, but by this time the woman was in “a critical condition”. She died in the ambulance before it was even in a position to set off for hospital.

Interviews with residents, and one of the witnesses, have revealed that the woman walked the street where she was killed every morning at the same time (around 8am), on her way to cleaning jobs in nearby Fogueteiro.

“The street is inhabited principally by elderly people”, writes Correio da Manhã, “who all lament the insecurity” that has become norm in the area.

Recent weeks have seen a “wave of assaults” in Amora; there have been various complaints to PSP police, and less than a month ago, on the night of Christmas Day, 20-year-old Fábio Veríssimo was stabbed to death in a street not 500 metres away.

“The description of the killer (in Fábio Veríssimo’s unresolved murder) coincides with that of yesterday’s crime”, says the paper. “But for now authorities are not linking the two cases, both of which are in the hands of PJ criminal police”.

What this despicable crime highlights however is a ‘growing insecurity’ in urban areas around Lisbon: “The country is becoming dangerous”, writes CM’s executive director Paulo João Santos, who believes it is a problem that political power and politicians generally balk at tackling.

This latest murder “is not an isolated case”, he warns. “It is just another among many situations of extreme violence that we have been seeing. Portugal is becoming more dangerous, and we need to act rapidly, and with determination, to stop this criminal wave before we slip into situations that we are used to seeing in other countries, but which we never thought would be possible here”.

Santos adds that “it would be interesting to know what the parties running in the elections have to propose on this subject. How can it be prevented, reduced. Health, education, Justice, housing, reforms, pensions, taxes… all these things are very important (…) but what is the point if when we step out of our homes we are shot, or stabbed?”

Up until now this creeping ‘scourge’ has been ignored “as if it did not exist – which reveals one of two things: either politicians think everything is fine, or they don’t know what to do about criminality. Whatever the case, it is serious”, he concludes.

CM’s leader writer has not been the first to query why ‘public security’ hasn’t been a theme in the rabid pre-electioneering ongoing across the country, with all main parties laying into each other over perceived failings.

Violent crime tends to be reported ‘piecemeal’, generally by the tabloids. But two recent stories of ‘shootouts’ and killings in the streets of Greater Lisbon have referred to residents ‘no longer feeling safe in their homes’, and ‘not wanting to go out after dark’ – and with police forces in ‘protest’ and reportedly effecting fewer arrests, the issue of public safety looks set to start pushing itself to the fore.

[email protected]