Hugo Ernano

Witnesses “frightened to come forward” in GNR “child-killer” appeal

At least 85,000 people signed a petition calling for his pardon, but the appeal of GNR officer Hugo Ernano – jailed for nine years for shooting dead a young teenager in a police chase – is an uphill battle.
Vital witnesses have failed to come forwards “for fear of reprisals”, writes Correio da Manhã, and this has hampered clarification of events of the tragic night of August 11, 2008.
Nonetheless, the policeman, who is described by his colleagues as an “excellent officer”, is clinging on to the hope that he will be absolved.
Ernano remains in active service awaiting the outcome of his appeal. He was condemned in November to nine years in prison – and ordered to pay €80,000 in costs to the parents of his victim – after the shots he fired at getaway car hit the young son of an escaped convict.
Sandro Lourenço – described by the Portuguese newspaper as having a record for theft and the torture of elderly people – was trying to avoid arrest after being caught red-handed in the process of a theft.
According to Correio da Manhã, as his car zigzagged wildly to escape the patrol car on his tail, Ernano – one of the officers in the car – caught sight of a number of children in a nearby square and “feared the worst”.
He is reported to have shot at one of Lourenço’s tyres in a bid to stop him just as the patrol car swerved. As a result, the shot hit “above the tyre”, reports CM.
Unknown to Ernano, Lourenço had his 13-year-old son, Paulo Jorge, on the back seat. Tragically, Paulo Jorge was hit twice, and died from his injuries.
Although a court in Loures condemned Ernano for the killing, there has been huge support for his case with thousands condemning his conviction as grossly unfair.
Talking to Lusa news agency after Ernano was sentenced to jail, Nuno Guedes, the regional coordinator of the GNR’s professional association said: “The wave of solidarity has been massive and from all quarters.”
Over €9,000 was raised to help fight the case, and this has been playing out at Lisbon’s court of appeal. It is expected to come a close “very soon”, reports CM.
But the problem of unwilling witnesses remains a worry.
CM TV screened a special broadcast over the weekend, going over the facts of the case and carrying interviews with Ernano’s colleagues, relatives and friends.
“We are certain that many witnesses refused to come to court due to fear of reprisals,” the officer’s lawyer Ricardo Vieira told CM.
Sandro Lourenço, 35, was “known in the area”, wrote the paper. “Almost everyone knew that the man was on the run and violent.”
As CM concludes: “Hugo Ernano’s defence considers that some witnesses may even have been threatened or persuaded not to talk.
“There is an amateur video which passed on a number of networks in which a lot of people can be seen around the van (involved in the shooting).
“None of these people want to talk. It is a situation that has been documented in the files”.
Meantime, for his part, Ernano has repeatedly said he does not believe in anyone being above the law.