Suspect has previous conviction for murder in Algarve
The police theory that one man alone is responsible for three murders in the Algarve since 2018 is gaining traction.
António Mascarenhas, 25, has already been condemned to 12 years in jail for the gruesome killing of young mum Tatiana Mestre whose burnt body was discovered in an equally burnt out car on scrubland on the Loulé/ Quarteira borders in August of that year.
He ended up serving 20 months of his sentence before being released on appeal.
Judges ruled that the DNA evidence found at the murder scene, under the victim’s fingernails, on the ties that bound her, on cigarette butts recovered, on her clothing – even in her vagina – were not sufficient to prove he was responsible for her death.
Mascarenhas – also known as ‘Kenny’ – even made an unsuccessful bid for State compensation of €115,000 (for having been held in jail on the basis of insufficient proof).
Police clearly never believed he should have been absolved.
When the mutilated body of TVDE (Uber-type) driver Sandra Andrade turned up in a suitcase hidden in a stone wall in São Lourenço, near Almancil last summer, their suspicions piqued immediately: ‘Kenny’ was a client of Sandra Andrade’s, “but the problem in this case was that forensics could not recover any usable DNA”, explain reports.
Then came the disappearance – and now obvious murder – of ‘escort’ Josiele Rodrigues.
The body of the 25-year-old Brazilian was only discovered a few days ago, hidden on scrubland near Ourique, in the lower Alentejo – like Tatiana Mestre, badly burned, but in this case further contaminated by the fact that animals had started to devour body parts.
Focus now will be on trying to retrieve some workable DNA that can connect ‘Kenny’ to Josiele Rodrigues’ body.
Police already have one fairly damning bit of evidence, says Correio da Manhã today: Josiele’s debit card was “found in Kenny’s possession.
“The discovery of the card happened during searches realised of the suspect’s car”, explains the paper.
It is a potential link, but it could be discounted as ‘circumstantial’.
All energy thus is directed now at building a case that cannot be ‘blown away’ by defence counsel.
In the meantime, Antónia Pinela, the mother of Tatiana Mestre, is reportedly trying to reopen her daughter’s case, as she does not believe for a moment that ‘Kenny’ should have been set free.
“I always thought he would stay in jail”, she told CM. “I was shocked when he was released after what he did to my daughter”.
Ms Pinela described how her daughter was found with her hands tied behind her back, a blouse over her head, asphyxiated with telephone cable.
The upper part of the car was ‘set light to’: “This melted and fell on top of my daughter. She suffered”, the grieving mother told CM.
The two other women who later lost their lives will almost certainly have suffered as well – which is why Faro PJ has been “tireless” in its attempts to get them justice.
Says CM, “the PJ of Faro, led by Fernando Jordão, has not rested. Since the death of Sandra (Andrade) this man has been on their radar as one of the principal suspects, particularly as he was involved in a violent crime years before. The investigation gained new momentum with the disappearance of Josiele Rodrigues”.
With ‘Kenny’ now in preventive custody on drug trafficking charges, the clock is ticking: can police find the evidence they need to make murder charges stick?
As for ‘motive’, as early reports attest, this looks like having been as futile as the fact that the victims may have rejected sexual advances.
Similarities linking the three women’s deaths
They were all strangled; their bodies were all ‘hidden’ in some way or other.
Josiele Rodrigues’ and Tatiana Mestre’s bodies were burnt.
All three women were living in the Algarve when they disappeared, subsequently found murdered.
All three women had connections with António Mascarenhas: Tatiana Mestre in the form of DNA; Josiele Rodrigues’ because her debit card was found in his car; Sandra Andrade because he was one of her clients.