Over three years since a Portuguese father snatched his British child and kept her in hiding for seven months, the kidnap trial is finally underway in Faro, with a now 10-year-old Giselle “Ellie” Kelly Silva having given her evidence to judges via video link.
Weeks after a similar case saw a Portuguese father jailed for three years, this new trial once again highlights the issue of psychological damage inflicted on children in tug-of-love issues.
Ellie’s mother Candice told Faro Court this week that her daughter continues to undergo daily therapy sessions.
It is the family’s way of trying to redress the trauma suffered by the enforced absence from Ellie’s normal everyday world.
The child told the court how she had been forbidden to see other children when her father Vilamoura businessman Filipe Silva took her during a two-week holiday and set up home in a friend’s apartment in Porto.
Very much like little Maria Alice from Tavira, who was held by her father in Belgium for more than two years, Ellie described how she had to wear a disguise whenever she went out; how her father called her by an assumed name, and how she had been unable to call her distraught mother because she was “worried” about her father’s reaction.
The court had heard Silva’s side of the story at an earlier hearing. A former girlfriend explained that Ellie had not wanted to return to her mother after the holiday, and that a “desperate” Silva had acted “instinctively” by taking her into hiding.
This week mother now of four Candice reiterated the heartache the ordeal had caused.
“It was a nightmare,” she said over the video link. “For seven months, I didn’t know if my daughter was alive or dead.”
But more than that, Candice and husband Philip Gannon found themselves up against a wall of obfuscation.
There was even collusion to the extent that a national television channel aired an unrepresentative report hours before Ellie was due to be returned to her mother’s care. (See: https://www.portugalresident.com/%E2%80%9Csinister-plot%E2%80%9D-almost-blocked-ellie%E2%80%99s-reunion-with-mother).
The family, now living in Ireland, has never stopped thanking its lucky stars that it is finally together.
Ellie came home to twin baby brothers she had never seen and a little sister who has now become her shadow.
“We’re safe,” agreed Candice, “whatever the judges decide, Ellie is learning to be a carefree little girl again.”
The next stage in this case that has seen months of postponements and delays is for Silva to give his own evidence, and then there will be time for a summing up – expected sometime in January.
The family has been careful to limit description of Ellie’s trauma, but Candice told the court that her daughter was “profoundly marked” and that she still has trouble sleeping and issues with anxiety.
It is almost exactly the description given to the same court by the mother of Maria Alice, who, asked if three years was a suitable sentence for her former partner, told reporters: “I don’t know. If I look at my daughter today, I don’t know if it was enough.”
Like Ellie, Maria Alice was described as “deeply affected” by her kidnapping, and still receiving psychological support.