Mystery over the disappearance from a Santarém military base of 57 kilos of plastic explosives, 44 rocket launchers and over 130 hand grenades has deepened in that GNR police from Loulé were apparently instrumental in the heist’s recovery.
The revelation puts the GNR squad over 200 kms from its normal area of business.
According to reports, the police were “working with PJ military police on another matter” and thus the easiest group to call in when an anonymous call came through at 3am on Tuesday morning.
Puzzled? Well so is everyone.
Tabloid Correio da Manhã considers the wording of the military police press communique when the weapons were found – that this was an operation “with the collaboration of the GNR of Loulé” – rather telling.
Why say that if the Loulé agents were just conveniently ‘there’ but otherwise uninvolved?
Then comes the issue of the “anonymous phone call”.
Could that have come from Loulé? No, it came, apparently, from a phone box on the ‘margem sul’ (coastal area below Lisbon) at three o’clock in the morning.
“A man’s voice, determined, which gave rapid but precise localisation of the arsenal”, says the paper.
The fortuitously present team of GNR agents from Loulé was quickly dispatched to recover arsenal, which they found “dripping wet from the rain”.
CM explains the stash had been left “out in the open” some hours before the mysterious phone call.
With the weapons all now undergoing forensic testing “for fingerprints and other” trace evidence – possibly a fruitless exercise considering the rain – the main questions hanging in the air are “why are 1450 9mm rounds of ammunition still missing” (everything else has been accounted for) and “who were the thieves”?
CM claims the military branch of the PJ still believes this was ‘an inside job’ with the target being the rounds of ammo.
Whatever the case, Defence Minister Azeredo Lopes has apparently been called “with urgency” to explain this latest development in a matter of military security that was originally described by the Major General of the Armed Forces Pina Monteiro as a “punch in the stomach”.
The Tancos heist then became another of the government’s “summer embarrassments” fanned by much leg-pulling from Spanish media over relaxed patrols at Portuguese military bases (click here).