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Mother kills 11-year-old child in grim week for Portugal’s litany of murder/suicides

The first few days of 2016 have been marked by two desperate cases of murder/suicide. One is even more tragic as it involved a severely ill and depressed mother killing her bright and seemingly happy 11-year-old son with poison.

Cancer sufferer Maria Violante Miguel had spent the days before writing farewell letters to relatives which the police discovered after her body and that of blonde Vítor were found in the early hours of Wednesday morning at their home on the island of Madeira.

For now, there are no details on what poison Maria Violante used; how quickly it worked or how indeed she managed to get her son to take it.

All that has been revealed is that Vítor came home from the football practice that was “one of his passions” at 9pm on Tuesday night, and that he was found dead beside his mother when his elder sister came back from her late night shift at a local restaurant.

President of the Pontassolense football club, where Vítor played, revealed the child had already had more than his fair share of problems. “His father disappeared four years ago, and his mother’s partner committed suicide a few weeks ago,” Orlanda Sousa told Correio da Manhã yesterday. “But no one expected this.”

“Despite all the efforts of medical teams and firemen called to the scene, there was nothing that could be done to save the mother and son,” wrote the paper.

Their bodies have now been sent for autopsy to determine what poison was used.

As the community of Ponta do Sol comes to terms with the horror, it has emerged that Maria Violante was in the late stages of breast cancer. She walked with the help of a stick, had lost her hair due to chemotherapy treatment and was profoundly depressed.

As psychologist Carlos Poiares told the paper, she almost certainly killed her son through the misplaced concern that to die and leave him without a mother would somehow be a fate worse than death.

Similar cases of matricide and attempted matricide have scarred the news in recent years, with several involving the mothers killing themselves – like the awful case of another mother in Bragança in 2013, also suffering from cancer, killing her autistic son and herself by holding on to him and jumping four storeys out of a hotel window.

In 2014, a young Lisbon mother jumped in front of a train at Sete Rios, as she held on to her four year old daughter. Mercifully, the youngster survived. In this case, the reasons behind the mother’s death-leap were never truly understood.

But on the same day that Maria Violante decided to go ahead with her drastic plans, on the mainland in Baião, a retired GNR agent attacked his wife with extreme blows to the head, which left her dead on the floor of a storeroom, before throwing himself into the sea.

The body of 64-year-old Álvaro Rodrigues was found washed up on Matosinhos beach just before 8am on Wednesday.

It was only when police went to Rodrigues’ home hours later to inform his wife of her husband’s death that they discovered the body of 57-year-old Augusta.

According to neighbours, the pair appeared to be “a normal couple” until a few weeks ago, when Augusta may have become involved with another man.

According to CM this morning, Augusta made a panic call to a friend earlier in the day to say her husband was threatening to kill her, but the friend “did not realise the gravity of the situation”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com