New evidence “implicates mother” in murder of Algarve teen Rodrigo Lapa

Sol newspaper carries an exclusive this weekend on its front page entitled “New evidence implicates mother in Portimão crime”.

Alongside the banner headline is a photograph of the woman whose vacillating testimony on the killing of her son has left thousands wondering why she is not already behind bars.

Justice moves “excruciatingly slowly” as we heard regarding the McCann-Amaral case this week – and written requests for information from the authorities can go unanswered for weeks – but Sol’s Felícia Cabrita has managed what no other journalist has achieved this far: an in-depth interview with Célia Barreto in which the mother-of-two not only continued with her contradictory statements, but also affirmed ‘facts’ that Sol was easily able to disprove.

“She’s cornered”, Cabrita begins her three-page article, and then lists the inconsistencies that have already made national television (click here), news reports and caused outrage on social media.

On a day when a new vigil in memory of 15-year-old Rodrigo was scheduled for Praia das Maças in Sintra, Sol’s report could well be a precursor of events about to unfold.

For now, it simply reviews Barreto’s conflicting stories: how she insists Rodrigo was awoken by the alarm of his cellphone on the day she claims he went missing – when it has already been established that the phone stopped emitting or receiving a signal the night before; how her son bid her goodbye on his way to school with a simple “See you later, mum” shutting the door behind him – when forensic evidence has already pointed to a struggle and Rodrigo’s likely death within the tiny house; and how she had no idea that her former lover Joaquim Pinto had anything to do with what she calls “the tragedy” when her son’s body was tied at the feet and hands – as well as round the neck – with electrical wire that Pinto kept in the house.

Sol reveals two new salient points: the first, that Rodrigo’s body was found dressed in a way that he would “never have gone to school”.

“He took great care in his appearance”, the teen’s lifelong friend told Sol. “The blue fleece he had on when he was found dead was his mother’s. He only ever used it at home, against the cold”.

And the second was that the same friend stresses Rodrigo slept alone in his bedroom – and did not share it with his mother (as Baretto claims was the case after her relationship with Pinto broke down).

With the Public Ministry still reluctant to confirm whether or not it has issued formal requests to police in Brazil to detain Pinto – who flew out of Lisbon bound for Brazil on the day Rodrigo was reported missing – Sol highlights another ‘inconsistency’ in the mother’s accounts.

Baretto claims Pinto had purchased plane tickets to Brazil for himself, her and their baby daughter – and that she discovered that his was a one-way trip while those for herself and her daughter were returns.

“She puts herself now in the role of narrator of a story that does not belong to her”, writes Cabrita.

Was Pinto trying to persuade her to leave Rodrigo behind? Something she told her interviewer she would not do. “I told him: never ask a mother to exchange one child for another”.

Then she wondered whether Pinto was simply using the trip as a ruse to ‘snatch’ the couple’s baby, she told Sol.

“He tried to convince me that his ticket was also a return”, she said – saying she went to the travel agent to clarify what was going on, to be told that Pinto “had no intention of returning” to Portugal.

Sol checked this account out at source, and the travel agent identified denied the whole story.

“I have never met the woman. I have only seen her on television”, she told the paper.

The report ends with Barreto claiming PJ detectives “say they are going to Brazil” to question Pinto. As if bemoaning the rime the investigation is taking, the 41-year-old says: “I would get there sooner!”

But when Sol offers to pay for the plane ticket, the woman is reported to have said: “I have to think about this very carefully. I don’t know if that would benefit me”.

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