Investigation into murder of Algarve teen remains “paralysed”

Three months since the battered body of 15-year-old Rodrigo Lapa was found partially hidden in scrubland near his Portimão home, the police investigation into his brutal murder remains “paralysed”, reports Sol newspaper.

Despite all the evidence pointing to the dead boy’s absconded Brazilian stepfather, authorities have “their hands tied”.

Particularly holding up progress are the results of toxicology examinations ordered following Rodrigo’s ‘inconclusive’ autopsy in March.

At the time, reports suggested these would be ready “within six to eight weeks”, but as Sol explains, here we are nearly in June and the Institute of Legal Medicine has still not supplied police with the information.

Even with these important results, the way forwards is a bureaucratic morass given that Brazil and Portugal do not share an extradition treaty.

It is a situation that has seen over 2,200 people sign a petition, urging for the law to be changed (click here).

But while it stays as it is, the former hotel worker dubbed by PJ police as the “principal suspect” in this tragic investigation lives unimpeded with his father, Rubens Lara Pinto, in the neighbourhood of Tijucal in Coiabá, Brazil, writes Sol.

The paper which last month carried an exclusive interview with Rodrigo’s mother, Célia Barreto – saying the woman’s conflicting stories were “implicating” her in her son’s death (click here) – is now suggesting that Barreto has been in telephone contact with her son’s supposed killer since he left Portugal.

“Since her Brazilian partner set out for Lisbon to catch a plane to Madrid, Célia has kept in touch with him, via her mobile phone”, Sol explains.

Once he arrived in Brazil, Lara Pinto called Célia regularly “not only using a mobile phone but also a landline at the home of his father”.

Both phones are now disconnected, writes Sol, adding that Célia eventually gave police their numbers but “omitted” to tell them about eight calls she shared with Lara Pinto in the week following Rodrigo’s disappearance.

These calls came from eight different numbers, says Sol. All are believed to correspond with public phone booths in the vicinity of Lara Pinto’s new home in Coiabá.

“The phone calls have come under suspicion”, the paper adds – “particularly since Célia altered her story to the PJ” once Rodrigo’s body appeared.

Sol isn’t the only media source that has kept the pressure on Célia Barreto.

SIC TV’s daytime show Queridas Manhãs has been particularly zealous in pursuing the hypothesis that Lara “may have had an accomplice”.

Rodrigo’s father Sérgio has been quoted as saying Barreto is “lying with every tooth in her head”, and the show’s hostess Júlia Pinheiro ended her on air conversation with the 41-year-old woman, saying: “I think you know more than you are telling us” (click here).

But none of this media exposure, nor the endless campaign by friends and supporters on social media seems to have done anything to push authorities into taking this investigation further.

Contacted by the Resident, the PJ has twice confirmed that all its work has been done. It now remains for the Public Ministry to compile rogatory letters which will then need to be passed by the Attorney General before they are sent to police in Brazil.

Questioned as to whether this kind of delay could play into Lara Pinto’s hands, a police source told us: “No-one can stay hidden forever. We are confident we will find Rodrigo’s murderer, just as we are confident we will find other suspects we believe have killed. If not this week, then it could be next month, next year – but we will find them”.

These ‘assurances’ may not satisfy the scores of people who still write today on various pages set up to ‘fight for Justice for Rodrigo’ and other murdered teens, including Bruno Nunes, 17, of Aljezur, also believed to have been killed by her stepfather (click here).

“It is an outrage how long everything is taking”, said one Facebook commentator on Wednesday, asking investigators if “this had been your child, would you have taken so long?”

Another said: “If (Rodrigo) had been someone famous, or the son of someone rich and influential, everything would already have been done. Help us talk about this case and press for justice for the death of Rodrigo”.

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