Trial date in sight for Meco’s heartbreak families claiming €1.3 million for the loss of their children

A trial date is finally in sight for heartbroken families of the six young people who drowned during a bizarre university ritual on Sesimbra’s Meco beach seven years ago.

This is a story that has already seen the European Court of Human Rights rule that Portuguese authorities failed supremely to conduct a proper investigation into the deaths (click here).

On this basis, the parents of Catarina Soares, Andreia Revez, Joana Barroso, Tiago Campos, Carina Sanchez and Pedro Titto Negrão are all pursuing civil claims against their dead children’s university and colleague João Miguel Gouveia which together total €1.3 million.

The case rests on the parents’ belief that João Miguel Gouveia, known as ‘Dux’ (Latin for leader) in the university hierarchy ‘ordered’ his colleagues to stand at the waters’ edge, with their backs to the sea, on a night when conditions should have precluded this kind of behaviour: waves could be heard crashing from distances of 100 metres; the six also were in dressed in heavy university gowns and had been drinking.

Portuguese courts have already ruled that no crime took place; that the six were all ‘consenting adults’ who were not deprived of their liberty for the ritual. The parents’ however are adamant that without Gouveia’s orders their children would be alive today. They are also deeply critical of the “functioning of the organisation known as COPA (the official commission for academic rituals) at the heart of ULHT (the Lusófono University)”.

The Meco tragedy shone a stark spotlight on the tradition for bizarre student rituals at Portuguese universities. These have since been scaled down. But this hasn’t helped the parents. Their lawyer Vítor Parente Ribeiro says they feel the private university knew all about the potentially dangerous activities promoted by COPA, but did nothing to limit them, with consequences that have ruined so many lives.

The trial is due to start at Setúbal Civil court on February 2 – and what will be different to all the other court dates so far is that João Gouveia (who hasn’t appeared at any hearing in the past and previously claimed ‘selective amnesia’ over the events of the terrible night in December 2013 when his friends died) should be the first to speak.

Say reports, “he has been notified to be present in the interview room”.

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