In one of the most bizarre murder cases for a long time, a PJ inspector charged and condemned to 17 years in jail for shooting her mother-in-law over 14 times with what was believed to be a police-issue Glock has finally ‘walked free’ from the very court that found her guilty three years ago.
Ana Saltão has been in and out of the news since the brutal killing of her 80-year-old mother-in-law in Celas, Coimbra in 2012.
Initially found not guilty by a Coimbra court, the verdict was overturned on appeal, which Saltão’s defence then appealed again to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
Ever present was the principle “in dubio pro reo” – doubts favouring the accused.
PJ colleagues in Coimbra were, said tabloid Correio da Manhã, never in any doubt.
Detectives always believed they had their killer, said the paper.
Saltão and her husband, also an inspector with the PJ, were in debt before Filomena Gonçalves was gunned down, and her death “resolved all their financial problems”.
With the Glock – “said to have been stolen from the locker” of one of Saltão’s PJ colleagues in Porto – never recovered, the issue of proof rested on ‘facts’ that Saltão’s jacket showed gunshot residue, and she had a wound to her right hand.
Saltão however maintained the wound was caused by a cooking incident, and it was later argued that the gunshot residue could have resulted from ‘contamination’ from the jacket having been left on the floor in PJ offices.
As to motive, the ‘debt’ held by Saltão and her husband was such that the killer would have to be a sociopath or have a long-running conflict with the deceased to have decided shooting multiple times was the answer.
According to Supreme Tribunal prosecutor Graça Marques the court had to absolve the inspector, due to the “impassable conflict between facts proved” which made her condemnation “unviable”.
Marques ruled there was a “notable error” in the appeal court decision that had accepted as proved that both the defendant and the victim had been facing each other.
A second autopsy on the dead pensioner’s body (exhumed due to all the doubts) showed “there were places where bullets had entered from the side”.
Also there appeared to have been an error in the number of entry wounds initially stated.
The appeals court had ‘accepted’ 14, said CM, while Marques was said to be in possession of reports that detailed “at least 15”.
Marques was also described as believing it was “not possible to determine motive”.
Back in 2016, CM suggested Marques had a “known friendship” with Coimbra magistrate Maria João Barata who initially freed Saltão from five-months preventive custody and was later removed from the case.
The friendship was “causing discomfort within the Public Ministry”, stressed CM – which continued – and continues – to pursue the theory that Saltão ‘did it’.
In the retrial, State prosecutors were asking for a 25 year jail term. But yesterday they heard they will not be getting it, and there is no further basis for another appeal.
Finally, after six years of legal battling, Ana Saltão has been freed from the murder charge that the same court deemed proven back in 2015.
Observador suggests this may not be ‘the end’ to this story.
“The Public Ministry can still appeal”, says the paper, but only to the Constitutional Court – and with two ‘not guilty’ rulings in the past, no one can possibly say what decision might be forthcoming.
In the meantime, the case has to ‘transitar em julgado’ (officially pass through all the channels before this latest decision is ratified).
And of course the question remains, if Ana Saltão didn’t gun down her mother in law all those years ago, then who did?