Three year old’s brutal death in Setúbal: trio arrested

Alleged crimes include first-degree murder, kidnapping, extortion and offences against physical integrity

Very little is clear about the hideous death of a three-year-old girl named only as Jessica in Setúbal on Monday. But police have no doubt it was murder. 

So far three people have been arrested: the child’s ‘so-called’ nanny, aged 52, her 58-year-old partner and her 27-year-old daughter.

A statement issued by the PJ this morning says the trio is suspected of the crimes of first-degree murder, kidnapping, extortion and offences against physical integrity.

A report in tabloid Correio da Manhã today attests to the autopsy showing the child “was beaten and agonised to death”.

“The autopsy determined the course of the investigation”, says the paper. “Injuries present were varied; the child had internal injuries and bruising. There is no doubt she was beaten. There is also no doubt that her mother did not seek help in time. She collected the child from the nanny at 9.30am; INEM was only called at 3pm”.

But the rest, the awful details, have yet to be fully-established.

What is clear is that Jessica was a “ghost child” (these being the words of Correio da Manhã): a child who came into the world and was put straight on child protection services’ watchlist. Even so, she managed to ‘slip through the cracks’ of State protection with the worst possible outcome.

Talking to the media yesterday, representatives of child protection services admitted “we failed here” – but like similar public services in other countries, there are all kinds of logistical reasons for this failure. 

The failure of child protection services is not why Jessica died: it is because she was beaten to death – by whom, and in exactly what circumstances is what PJ police are now trying to establish.

Stories coming out this far agree Jessica had been ‘in the care of her nanny’ for five days – with her mother not seeing her during that time.

Jessica’s mother is described as a woman who has five other children, none of which live with her.

CM’s report today, splashed over two heartbreaking pages, carries the comment by “one of the investigators” who described the state of the child’s body as “repugnant”. There were “many injuries inflicted on the child”, says the paper, admitting “the picture emerging is one of extreme poverty and enormous moral misery in everyone involved with the child – to the extent that even her protection, the responsibility of the State, degraded to the point that she became a mere abstraction. 

“The silence even of the community before the first and repeated signs of alarm ended up contributing to this tragedy”, says the paper.

SIC television news this morning has started filling in some of the ‘gaps’, with further horrific revelations.

According to the station, the nanny and her partner had “lent money to Jessica’s mother and committed the crimes until the debt was settled”.

The daughter arrested is potentially being charged for “omission of help”, says SIC. She is believed to have witnessed the cruelty inflicted, “without doing anything” about it.

The trio will be going before a magistrate, possibly later today, to hear bail conditions.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com