Australian woman’s death in Algarve questioned by family

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

Family members of an Australian woman who was found dead at her home in São Brás de Alportel in March 2008 are claiming that she was murdered despite Portuguese police ruling that she had committed suicide.

The body of Jacinta Rees was found by a teenage neighbour at around 9.30am and, at the time, police told the Algarve Resident: “There were traces of blood found at the house, however there is no suspicion of murder.”

The spokesman for the GNR continued: “The PJ police investigated the property and did not find any evidence of robbery or any other crime.”

At the time of the incident, the police spokesman said that Jacinta Rees could have been “psychologically impaired” due to the fact that she had been in a car accident two days earlier and treated at Beja Hospital.

According to Australian newspaper Herald Sun, a new autopsy by Australian authorities concluded that Jacinta Rees died from a “blunt force injury to the left side of the head.  The injury pattern with trauma to both head and the left arm raises serious concerns.  Further investigations are being undertaken via the Victorian Police Department’s homicide squad.”

Family members of Jacinta Rees have stated in the Herald Sun that they feel let down by the Federal Government of Australia. The brother of Jacinta Rees, Cameron, told the Herald Sun:  “All we want to know is the truth about what happened to her.  She was our sister and our parents’ child – she deserves better than this.”

He added: “The Portuguese police have said that she died from a self inflicted wound and there were no signs of attack or defence but Jacinta’s skull had been caved in with an axe.  She clearly had defensive wounds, also her elbow had been shattered, her knee was damaged and there were four separate wounds to her head.

“She suffered a horrendous death and the GNR determined this was a suicide and our embassy concurred.”

Consular assistance

In a statement to the Algarve Resident, Australian Consul Marc Adorni-Braccesi from the Australian Embassy in Lisbon said: “We sympathise with the family in their search for answers to Ms Rees’ death.

“The Australian Embassy in Lisbon has been actively engaged in assisting Ms Rees’ family and the investigating officials.  The Ambassador met with, and wrote to, senior officials in the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Prosecutor’s Office about the case.  The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade obtained a copy of the autopsy report from the Victorian Coroner and provided this to the Portuguese investigators.  

“The findings of the report were examined and taken into account by the Portuguese Prosecutor.  Embassy officials followed up enquiries with the investigating officials and the Prosecutor’s office on more than 20 separate occasions, including following up on the findings of the Victorian coroner.”

In relation to claims surrounding the handling of the death of Jacinta Rees by the Embassy, Marc Adorni-Braccesi said: “Australian consular officials have provided extensive consular assistance to Ms Rees’ family.  Consular officials have been in contact with Ms Rees’ family members on more than one hundred separate occasions, and sought the expeditious release of information by the investigating authorities to Ms Rees’ family.”

He continued: “The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade receives frequent requests from consular clients or next of kin to translate court and other official documents.  The staff at our overseas missions are not professionally trained as legal interpreters or translators and are not appropriately qualified to translate court documents.”

A spokesman from the Australian Embassy in Lisbon stated that it will continue to provide consular support to the family of Jacinta Rees.

A spokesman from the Victorian Police Department in Australia confirmed that they were aware of the case but at the time of the Algarve Resident going to press on Wednesday they could not confirm their involvement in the investigation.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from the PJ told the Algarve Resident: “The case was referred to the public ministry in 2008 and is no longer with the PJ. We cannot confirm if the case will be reopened.”

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]