The emotionally-charged silent protest organised outside the Public Ministry in Portimão today (Saturday) threw up yet more mystery in the murder of Algarve teen, Rodrigo Lapa, whose united core of friends have been pushing for justice for seven agonising months.
Called to shine a spotlight on authorities’ lack of action in a case many feel is clear-cut (click here), it elicited the information that the spot where the 15-year-old’s body was found had been thoroughly searched by his increasingly-worried friends the day before.
“You could even see our footprints in the earth”, Inês Louzeiro told us. “What it means is that his body was definitely not there the day before. Someone, or more than just one person, must have taken it there during the night”, she said – adding that Rodrigo’s body showed “no sign of having been outside for as many days as he must have been dead”.
The 38-year-old mother of one of Rodrigo’s closest friends, Louzeiro was among a number of people who searched for Rodrigo day-and-night until his body was found, less than 100 metres from the home he shared with his mother, stepfather and baby sister (click here).
“I didn’t sleep, I didn’t wash my face… we just looked and looked and looked for days, hoping, praying that he would suddenly turn up, and everything would be all right”, she told us.
Schoolfriends Rúben Simões, Hugo Caracol, Daniel Franco, Nuno Pezeiro and Jessica António confirm Inês Louzeiro’s story, saying the fact that nothing has been done to bring Rodrigo’s killer (or indeed, killers) to justice is “barbaric”.
“This is so simple”, 16-year-old Rúben explained. “They (the authorities) know he was killed at home. They know who was at home at the time he was killed. There. It’s simple. They all know what happened. We all know what happened. So why has nothing been done? Why are we still waiting for justice after all these months?”
It is a tragedy that has touched many people throughout Portugal, seeing social media pages filled with outpourings of grief and frustration (click here).
Thus the reason for today’s protest – hampered by the fact that it was “cancelled” the night before by a posting on Facebook, and then reconvened early on Saturday morning by friends in the Algarve who felt the commitment was just too important to drop.
“We are disgusted”, explained mother-of-two Inês. “We are his friends. We will never stop pushing for justice for him”.
Television stations were on hand to record interviews, as Rodrigo’s father Sérgio arrived to add his voice to the cause.
Preferring to talk to us in English, he said: “If I had been a man with cash, maybe it is different. But I am no one, at least that is what they think. We don’t matter to them”.
Sérgio Lapa said he “doubts” that justice will be done – particularly as no efforts have been made to question Rodrigo’s former step-father (now living in his native Brazil, but officially dubbed the ‘principal suspect’).
But Rodrigo’s friends, led by Inês Loureiro, believe it will.
“It has to be done”, said Rúben Simões. “That is why we are here today, and why we will keep returning. We will never give up”.
Hugo Caracol was at pains to stress that in spite of Rodrigo’s mother’s claims in the press, Rodrigo was the kind of boy who “would never steal anything” and certainly had nothing to do with drugs.
“He was peaceful, timid. He never caused any problems”, added Hugo.
“He lived for his friends”, said Inês Louzeiro. “This is why this terrible thing has touched everyone who knew him so deeply”.