LAGOS POLICE chief, Sérgio Martins, 49, was shot dead in the early hours of Sunday morning (December 11). He had been trying to detain a gang who had attempted to steal a cash machine from the Ecomarché store in Budens, near Lagos.
The gang were forced to flee the supermarket, where they attempted to load the cash machine into a stolen Ford Transit van, when a police patrol car arrived on the scene. After firing several gunshots, they drove off in the direction of Lagos, where the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) had, meanwhile, set up a roadblock.
On approaching the police barrier, the car slowed down, giving the impression that it was going to stop. However, instead, the gang opened fire and it was then that the chief of Lagos police was shot in the head causing his immediate death. The assailants then used the hard shoulder of the EN125 to avert the police blockade and escape.
For the attempted robbery, the gang is thought to have driven in the direction of Silves in an Opel Astra with a Spanish numberplate. There, they apparently broke into a warehouse, stealing a Mercedes C220. On reaching Portimão, the group went on to steal a tow truck. Arriving at the Ecomarché store in Budens, the robbers reversed the tow truck into the supermarket building, destroying a metal door which allowed them to enter the building and remove the cash machine from the entrance.
Witnesses, who spoke to Correio de Manhã newspaper, stated that the gang abandoned the Mercedes halfway through the assault, reappearing shortly afterwards in a Ford Transit that they had stolen from outside a nearby café. Two members of the gang kept watch from the Opel Astra, while the others attempted to load the cash machine into the van using the wrench from the tow truck. It was then that the patrol car arrived on the scene.
According to an official statement issued by the police, the incident is said to have taken place between 5am and 6am and the gang comprised of six or seven men. Witnesses say the gang members spoke mainly in Spanish. Police believe at least one member of the dangerous gang is Portuguese.
According to police, this is the same group who attempted to steal a cash machine from a Galp petrol station on the EN125, between Faro and Olhão, last week, an incident in which gunshots were also exchanged with the police. The same gang, thought to be from the Seville area, successfully stole a cash machine from a petrol station in Pêra on November 24 (see front page story of last week’s The Resident).
Sérgio Martins was in charge of two police squadrons in Lagos and had been working for Lagos PSP force for around 10 years. He leaves a wife and two children aged 12 and 20. Sérgio Martins is the fourth policeman to lose his life in service this year.
The Portuguese authorities are currently working together with the Spanish police to hunt down the dangerous criminals responsible for the crime wave and, as we went to press, police confirmed that a man was detained in Albufeira who is thought to be connected to the gang. The 20-year-old Portuguese of gypsy origin is an escaped convict suspected of being involved with an armed gang. It is hoped that this development may assist the police in making further arrests.
The stolen Mercedes used by the gang has also been discovered, abandoned in Benagaia, close to the access from Algoz to the Via do Infante. The window of the car was open and a used rifle cartridge was found. Police believe that the gang could still be in the south of Portugal.
are faulty and
According to reports in the Portuguese press on Tuesday of this week, it has come to light that the gun of one of the policemen, who was at the roadblock with commander Sérgio Martins, jammed when he attempted to fire at the gang’s car. He apparently ducked down to try to fix the problem, at which point a bullet fired by the robbers flew above him, hitting Sérgio Martins in the head.
Police sources and union representatives are heavily criticising the weapons provided for use by the security forces, as they say they are too old and in a poor state of repair. Apparently, the gun used by Martins’ colleague, a Walter 7,65mm handgun, is 20 years old – sources claim that this is not unusual, as some guns being used by the police are up to 30 years old. Police cars have also been criticised recently for being unsuitable and too slow.
Government to take action
The tragedy has prompted the government to make a statement with regard to the resources available to the police. By the end of March, the government states that security forces will receive 2,000 bulletproof vests. The first 1,600, the acquisition of which was announced back in July, would be arriving this week, confirmed Minister of Internal Affairs António Costa. As well as bulletproof vests, the government also announced that new arms would be acquired.
Yet another petrol station robbery
in the Algarve
As we were going to press, police confirmed that a 25-year-old armed man robbed the Galp petrol station at the entrance to Vilamoura at 6.30pm on Monday evening this week. The individual entered the establishment and demanded the cashier hand over all the money in the till. He then fled the scene, driving away in a red BMW that has already been identified by the authorities.