Two families received the worst possible news over the weekend: the young women they have been desperately searching for since February have been discovered dead and decomposing in a drainage canal at a dog hotel beside Cascais’ municipal aerodrome.
Sisters Michelle and Lidiana Santana, and Lidiana’s friend Thayane Mendes had almost certainly been dead for six months.
The macabre find was ‘expected’, explains national tabloid Correio da Manhã.
Police in both Portugal and Brazil have been on the trail of the missing women for months, and the ‘principal suspect’, Michelle’s former lover, used to work at the dog hotel.
Back in April, the PJ’s counter-terrrorism unit drained three wells on the site “in the hope of finding a lead”, writes CM.
They “left orders with workers there to contact the PJ if they had any information”.
That contact came last Thursday as repairs to a drainage tank revealed the existence of three bodies.
As to the principal suspect, also Brazilian, he left Portugal shortly after the girls disappeared, and is apparently “under federal police vigilance” in his hometown of Novo Cruzeiro, Minas Gerais.
Gomes gave relatives a number of spurious stories, none of which checked out, and has been suspected of ‘doctoring’ the women’s Facebook accounts click here.
But the mere fact that it has taken so long to see him effectively ‘still free’ has incensed public opinion and highlighted the legal no-man’s-land that allows criminals and killers to escape justice when they run between Portugal and Brazil.
Writing in CM today, university lecturer André Ventura dubs it the “Criminal samba”, and refers to characters condemned to life imprisonment in this country ‘living peacefully in Rio de Janeiro and painting idyllic pictures’ while in Portugal suspects like former PSD MP Duarte Lima – wanted for murder in Brazil – are also free as birds, and living on substantial State pensions.
For Algarvians still pushing for justice for the murder of 15-year-old Rodrigo Lapa earlier this year (principal suspect also fled to Brazil), the case may be an example of how the South American country fast-tracks horrors when they involve national victims but leaves other barbarities unresolved click here.
CM explains that Federal Police in Brazil have given counterparts in Portugal 30 days to expedite evidence so that an arrest warrant for Gomes can finally be issued.
Post-mortem examination of the bodies is due to go ahead in Lisbon today.