The child was initially reported missing to GNR in Peniche on Thursday, 7 May by her father and after three days of searching the Judicial Police (PJ) of Leiria found the body of the girl on Sunday, 10 May covered by bushes in a forest in Serra D’el Rei, in the municipality of Peniche, in the district of Leiria.
On the same day as the body of the child was found, her father and stepmother were arrested charged with crimes of felony murder and desecration of a corpse.
On 13 May the father of the child was deemed to be “responsible” for her death according to the investigating judge of the Leira Court who decided to detain both the father and the stepmother in preventative detention.
The child’s father has materialised, “as the perpetrator, of the crime of qualified homicide and domestic violence”, said a statement read by a court official.
In the statement read publicly, the judge states that the child’s stepmother is “strongly accused” of being the author of a “homicide qualified by omission and under possible deception”.
Both defendants are suspected also of the crime of desecrating a corpse and were to be transported by the PJ to prison facilities in Lisbon.
Both the suspects had initially been heard in the Leira court on 12 May, with the stepmother being interrogated for around two hours during the morning session and the father then facing the court for a little over an hour.
As the suspects left the court they were heckled and called “murderers” by members of the public who had been waiting outside the court.
According to Lusa news agency, the preliminary result of the autopsy on the child points to a violent death, with head injuries and signs of suffocation.
Although there is evidence of suffocation, the 9-year-old will have suffered aggression in several places, which caused her several injuries, including on the head, according to a police source who added that it is not yet possible to guarantee whether any of these attacks resulted in death or both situations simultaneously, since the causes of death will only be confirmed after laboratory tests.
Other measures continue to be carried out by the inspectors, to gather evidence that the crime was carried out by the child’s father and stepmother during the Wednesday.
“We are checking [the death scenario], but of course it must have happened in a context of violence”, said the coordinator of the Criminal Investigation Department of PJ de Leiria, Fernando Jordão, stressing that, “at the outset”, it would not have been an accidental death.
Fernando Jordão said that the death occurred “due to internal issues in the functioning of the family”, refusing to reveal more information.
Convinced that the victim was killed inside the house, the head of the PJ said he did not know if the other three children of the family, “aged 11/12-years-old, 4-years-old and one with only a few months”, who were at home and had seen something .
The PJ interviewed the eldest child, as well as the main suspects, the father, 32-years-old, and the stepmother, 38-years-old.
The investigation started as a disappearance and the evidence that emerged, related to the “analysis, interviews and interrogations” carried out on several people, “led to detention”.
”The interviews and inquiries made with several people allowed us to correlate all the data we had on the table in order to put all the hypotheses that were possible until we found evidence of criminal conduct,” he added.
Fernando Jordão did not mention a specific moment that led inspectors to treat the case as a possible crime. “In the face of a disappearance case, we have to open many hypotheses and sub hypotheses. There is not a moment when it can be said that the disappearance is over and it is a homicide. What can be said is that it is a disappearance that resulted in a homicide. ”
Over the days, the PJ conducted several interviews and inquiries with several people, which led to the evidence, which Fernando Jordão chose not to specify.
Jordão also said that he had no information to indicate that the child was the victim of abuse by the father or that she was being monitored by the Commission for the Protection of Children and Youth.
He mentioned, however, that the child would usually live with her mother and that in the context of a pandemic she had been living with her father “for some time”.
“We want to emphasise that the work developed by the PJ would not have this outcome, had it not been for the excellent collaboration of GNR, Civil Protection, municipalities, scouts and others, who contributed a lot in carrying out searches in an attempt to find the child”, he stressed.
In terms of the investigation, “it results from a permanent exchange of information, above all, between these two criminal police bodies [PJ and GNR], night and day, with an analysis in real time, which allowed the establishment of strategies”.
”Without this work, the PJ would not be able to collect relevant and useful information to develop its work and reach this result.”
In response to the Lusa agency, the CPCJ of Peniche, in the district of Leiria, clarified that the child was flagged in April 2019, after having run away from her father’s house and was found by the police authorities shortly thereafter.
A month later, the case was closed.
“Taking into account the facts identified and the information collected to date, CPCJ understood that there was no situation that justified the need for the application of a protection measure”, explained the CPCJ.
After that date, CPCJ did not flag the child again.