Dealer decapitated

Police officers have confirmed that the headless body discovered in Sintra in June is that of well-known criminal Hary Neto. What is now known to be Neto’s body is buried in the cemetery of Alto de São João, but the whereabouts of his head remain a mystery. Police believe it “was taken to show the Turks”, following his murder at the hands of a rival drug gang.

There was immediate suspicion in police circles that the body could be that of Neto, who had disappeared about 12 days earlier. Neto, a 25-year-old drug dealer, was a man with a long history of violence, although he never actually served time in prison. “We had known about him since 1998,” remembers an investigator. Hary was infamous, not just among police but also among fellow criminals, who resented his swaggering attitude and big drug deals. He had made some powerful enemies, particularly among Lisbon’s Turkish drug barons. “If he knew of a lucrative drug drop then he was there,” revealed an accomplice. One of the last incidents involving Neto was at the beginning of the year in Vialonga. Together with three other criminals he prepared to ambush two rival dealers in order to steal their money and drugs. The GNR intercepted him, but a court allowed him to stay at large pending trial – an oversight that cost him his life.

Underworld had issued threats

Rival Turkish drug barons, whose ‘patch’ he had encroached, were now more of a danger to Neto than the law. But although they were making increasingly vocal threats, Neto ignored them all. Eventually the Turks caught up with him. They shot him twice in the head, doused his body with acid and then severed his head so they could ‘prove’ his execution to their gang bosses. Decapitation is an age-old method designed to engender fear in enemies – particularly common in the Middle Ages, it is now known to be a hallmark of the Turkish underworld. “He was warned many times. And he knew that they wanted to kill him. But he never believed it – he was very cocksure,” said one source. This is not the first time that a criminal has met such a fate. In 2000 Spanish police apprehended more than 400kgs of heroin and detained various individuals, among them a Portuguese man, known as Anão. Shortly afterwards his headless body was discovered in Estremoz.

Turkish gangs control much of the drug trafficking in Portugal and the rest of Europe and are now believed to be seeking to gain complete control of the hashish trade. Just two months before Neto’s execution, representatives from the Turkish Mafia passed through Portugal. Police believe that it was at this time that they decided on the ‘hit’, fearing that Neto and others like him were creating instability in what they considered to be their drug turf. Police have detained two men in connection with Neto’s death but the battle to reach the gunmen’s paymasters is likely to be far harder.