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Letter rogatory finally on way to Brazil five months after murder of Algarve teen

Thousands waiting for justice for murdered teen Rodrigo Lapa this week got the news they had been waiting for.

Almost five months since the discovery of the body of the 15-year-old – reported missing by his mother hours after investigators have concluded he must already have been dead – Sol newspaper reports that police at last have the information they need to elaborate the necessary letter rogatory to authorities in Brazil.

As newspapers have reported since the day Rodrigo’s body was found on scrubland near his mother’s home outside Portimão, the boy’s former stepfather Joaquim Lara Pinto has been the principal suspect in his murder.

Sol explains that Lara Pinto’s escape from authorities was almost certainly aided by Rodrigo’s mother Célia Barreto, who not only changed her story on numerous occasions, but who finally admitted to police that her son had been violently attacked by her so-called estranged lover on the last day that she saw him.

“Joaquim Lara Pinto had been waiting for the boy hidden in the bathroom, and as soon as (Rodrigo) left his bedroom (to get ready to go to school), (Célia) saw him grab her son by the neck while he screamed and drag him into the kitchen. From that time, she never saw or heard him again,” writes Sol.

The autopsy performed, however, was ‘inconclusive’, requiring complementary reports which have only now concluded that Rodrigo died from strangulation.

Says Sol, strangulation was “by tensile strength, probably with the arm of the murderer”.

Thus, with Barreto’s description of how Lara Pinto had her son in a chokehold, police finally have all the information they need to go after him in a country that does not share any extradition agreement with Portugal.

Sol explains the letter rogatory on its way to Brazil should ensure that Lara Pinto – currently living with his father and ‘identified’ by Brazilian police – is heard on his home-ground.

It will be up to the former kitchen worker to “fill or not the lacunas in the investigation”.

Sol has been at pains to follow this story, and stress that even if Lara Pinto is the “principal suspect” in Rodrigo’s murder, he will almost certainly have needed help in the disposing of the body.

Sol’s inference – backed by popular opinion – has always been that Rodrigo’s mother was involved in her son’s death, if only by ‘covering it up’ sufficiently to give Lara Pinto time to hop the country (click here).

As the paper says in its latest report: “It was only at the end of the day (in which Célia saw her son being dragged into the kitchen in a chokehold) that she report her son’s disappearance to the authorities, allowing Lara Pinto to flee.

“Questioned by PJ police about not having revealed these facts, Célia justified herself with the fear she had for her own life and the fact that her ex-partner could have taken the couple’s only daughter.”

Célia Barreto’s baby daughter has since been removed from the woman’s custody by child protection authorities, as the investigation finally moves forwards.

Numerous Facebook pages have been set up, demanding justice for Rodrigo, “Juntos pela Rodrigo Lapa e por todas as Crianças” being the most keenly followed, with 42,687 people waiting to hear that this young boy’s death will not be forgotten.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com