Two Portuguese children have now been murdered by family members in the last four days – and another is recovering from his injuries in hospital.
The second murdered child – a little girl just shy of her third birthday – died in hospital in Lisbon on the day the first victim, six-month-old Henrique, was buried.
The tragedies have left communities in shock and the authorities in the spotlight.
Both dead children were from “troubled families” in the suburbs of Greater Lisbon, and the bottom line from neighbours is that much more could have been done to save them from the devastating consequences of those troubles.
In Henrique’s case, his father was described as “drunk, jobless and suffering from depression”.
Since being taken into custody, Henrique’s father has actually claimed he cannot remember plunging a knife into his son’s chest.
With Maria Isabel – known locally as ‘Bia’ – the stepfather who is now in custody is also described as “jobless”.
Herlander Bexigas Félix is understood to have beaten both Bia and her four-year-old brother on numerous occasions at the family home in Zambujal, São Julião do Tojal, near Loures.
The two siblings are reported to have been absent from their crèches for the last two days of last week.
Neighbours interviewed have also described seeing the children with bruises.
But last Friday, Félix went further. He is understood to have not only beaten his stepdaughter, but held her battered body underwater until she was unresponsive.
According to press reports, “a considerable amount of water” is understood to have entered Bia’s lungs, while injuries included a “visible bruise to the head” and a fractured thorax.
An autopsy will determine the extent of the child’s injuries.
Neighbours are understood to have learnt of the tragedy when Félix emerged from the family home, in panic, with Bia in his arms.
The child was rushed to hospital, but declared brain dead and died on Saturday afternoon.
Meantime, her elder brother is described as having survived injuries to his head and one of his legs and is now recovering in Lisbon’s Hospital de Santa Maria.
As PJ police track the events that led to Bia’s death, Félix has been remanded in custody.
The dead girl’s mother remains in hospital with her. Intriguingly, as in the case of murdered Henrique, the woman is understood to have worked as a cleaning lady.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]