A 52-year-old mother-of-two has been brutally stabbed to death in her own home, hours after she appealed to police to protect her.
The story of Maria Cremilde Pinheiro’s last hours has shocked a nation that is assailed almost by the day by horrific cases of domestic violence.
In a week when headlines proclaimed that star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo wanted “a woman that respects him”, the tragedy of what can happen to women who try to leave their husbands in Portugal has once again come into sharp focus.
Ironically, Maria Cremilde Pinheiro (known as Mimi) was a former classmate of football coach José Mourinho.
According to stories in the Portuguese media today, Mimi ran terrified to her local police station in Setúbal on Wednesday night, complaining of her husband’s aggression.
João Pinheiro, also 52, is understood to have attacked her during an argument over the couple’s pending divorce.
After lodging an official complaint at the police station in Avenida Luísa Todi, Mimi returned to the family’s apartment in Rua Engenheiro Henri Perron at 2.30am, accompanied by police who are understood to have “evaluated the situation as being of low risk”.
João Pinheiro was understood to be in the apartment and “waiting for his wife”. The police then left and, according to reports, half-an-hour later Maria Cremilda was killed from multiple stab wounds.
It was her son who found his mother’s body and, once again, made the trip to the local police station.
This time agents returned to find João Pinheiro with a knife in his hands.
The former employee of the national bank of Angola had apparently self-inflicted a number of wounds and had to be restrained.
He was removed from the apartment at 4.45am and taken to Setúbal Hospital for treatment.
Meantime, INEM emergency services have been talking about the delicate moments inside the apartment when they had to negotiate with Pinheiro to give up his weapon.
The knife, believed to have been the murder weapon, is now in the hands of the authorities.
As tributes fill “Mimi’s” Facebook page, Setúbal’s PSP has been justifying the reasons why agents went no further to protect her.
According to a statement put out in the press, the “fact that there had not been antecedents, that this was the first complaint and that the victim had shown willingness to return to the apartment” led to the fateful “low risk” evaluation.
Maria Cremilda’s killing brings the number of deaths due to domestic violence already this month to two.
Last year 40 women died at the hands of their partners, former lovers or furious men powered by jealousy.
As victims support group Projecto Criar told the Resident last year (see https://www.portugalresident.com/sleeping-with-the-enemy), “the way domestic violence is dealt with is key.
“To give you an example, it took one woman six visits to the police station before anyone took her complaints seriously.
“The last time, she was barefoot and in her pyjamas. It was only then that the police took any notice of what she was saying. She had taken huge risks each time going to make complaints against her husband, and five of those times no-one had helped her.”
Tragically, Maria Cremilda Pinheiro seems only to have had one chance, and police blew it.