Murder of Joana Cipriano

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Joana Cipriano
Born
Joana Isabel Cipriano

(1996-05-31)31 May 1996
Disappeared12 September 2004 (aged 8)
Figueira, Portugal
StatusNot Found
NationalityPortuguese
Parent(s)Leonor Cipriano (mother)
Investigating forcePolícia Judiciária, Portimão
ChargeMurder
ConvictedLeonor Cipriano (mother), João Cipriano (maternal uncle)

Joana Isabel Cipriano (born 31 May 1996) disappeared on 12 September 2004 from Figueira, a village near Portimão in the Algarve region of Portugal. An investigation by the Polícia Judiciária, Portugal's criminal police, concluded that she had been murdered by her mother, Leonor Cipriano, and her uncle, João Cipriano, after witnessing them engaged in incestuous sex. Her body was never found.[1]

The mother and uncle confessed to police in October 2004; the uncle said he had cut the girl's body into pieces before disposing of it by throwing it into a nearby pigsty.[2] Joana's mother withdrew her confession the day after signing it, alleging that she had been beaten during a 48-hour-long interrogation. The police officers accounted for the bruising on the mother's face and body by maintaining that she had thrown herself down some stairs in the police station in an effort to commit suicide. Both the mother and uncle were convicted of murder and sentenced to sixteen years in jail.[3] It was the first murder trial in Portuguese legal history to take place without the discovery of a body.[4]

Five officers were charged with a variety of offences as a result of the allegations of assault; three were acquitted.[5] One of the two officers who was convicted, Chief Inspector Gonçalo Amaral, led the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a British girl who went missing in May 2007 from the nearby resort of Praia da Luz. Amaral was not present during the alleged assault, but was accused of having covered up for other officers; he was convicted of having falsified police documents in the case and received an eighteen-month suspended sentence.[6]

Several similarities between the cases—both girls vanished without trace within 7 miles (11 km) and less than three years of each other, both cases had officers who failed to secure the crime scene, both mothers mounted campaigns to find their daughters and both women were accused of involvement—prompted Joana's family to appeal in 2008 for police to investigate whether there was a link between the disappearances.[4]

Disappearance and charges[edit]

External image
Leonor Cipriano, holding a poster of her daughter.

Joana Cipriano, eight years old at the time, was last seen at around 8 pm on the evening she disappeared, after being sent to buy milk and a tin of tuna from a local store. A neighbour saw her around 200 yards from her house, walking back from the store. Her mother, Leonor Cipriano, launched a local campaign to find her daughter, distributing posters around the neighbourhood.[4]

The prosecution argued that Joana was killed because she had seen her mother and João Cipriano, her mother's brother, having sex. Leonor confessed to killing her daughter after nearly 48 hours of continuous interrogation. Her brother confessed to having assaulted Joana, and said he had cut her body into small pieces and placed her inside a refrigerator, which was put inside an old car that was taken to Spain to be crushed and burned.[2] When he was asked if he had sexually abused Joana, he said, "I did not harm her - I only killed her."[7]

Controversy[edit]

Allegations of police misconduct[edit]

External image
Bruising on the mother's face after she was interviewed by police.

Leonor retracted her confession the day after making it, claiming she had been beaten. She suffered extensive bruising to her face and body, which the police said was caused by her throwing herself down some stairs in the police station in an effort to kill herself. Five officers, including Gonçalo Amaral, head of the regional Polícia Judiciária in Portimão at the time, were charged with a number of offences. The indictment alleged that several of them had kicked Leonor, hit her with a cardboard tube, put a plastic bag over her head, and made her kneel on glass ashtrays.[4]

Three officers, Leonel Marques, Paulo Pereira Cristóvão and Paulo Marques Bom, were acquitted of torture.[8] Amaral was not present at the time of the alleged beating but was accused of having covered up for the other officers, which he denied.[9] He was convicted of perjury in May 2009 for having falsified documents in the case, and received an eighteen-month suspended sentence.[6] Another officer, António Nunes Cardoso, was also found guilty of having falsified documents and received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence.[8]

Comparison to McCann case[edit]

The village of Figueira is only seven miles from Praia da Luz, where Madeleine McCann disappeared on 3 May 2007.[10] In both cases the mothers launched campaigns to find their daughters and in both cases the local Polícia Judiciária investigated the possibility that the mothers had killed their daughters.[3]

A child protection specialist, Mark Williams-Thomas, who believes that Joana's and Madeleine's disappearances are related, said that the disappearance of two children unknown to each other, within a period of four years in a seven-mile radius, would be a huge coincidence, especially considering that Portugal is a small country with few abductions.[10] Before Joana's disappearance, the previous first-degree murder of a child in the Algarve region was in November 1990 and involved a British girl, nine-year-old Rachel Charles, who was abducted and murdered in Albufeira. Her body was found three days later; a British mechanic and friend of the family, Michael Cook, was arrested and convicted.[11] Leandro Silva, Leonor's common-law husband, said in 2007 that "the only difference between the McCanns and us is that we don't have money."[12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hamilos, Paul; de Beer, Brendan (3 October 2007). "Detective leading hunt for Madeleine sacked after blast at UK police". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Prosecution unveils horror of girl's death". The Portugal News. 14 May 2005. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b Govan, Fiona (28 May 2007). "The detectives working as the world watches". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Watts, Alex (12 May 2008). "'Disturbing Similarities' With Madeleine". Sky News. London. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2017 – via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Govan, Fiona (28 May 2007). "The detectives working as the world watches". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  6. ^ a b "'McCann detective guilty of perjury". The Guardian. London. Press Association. 22 May 2009. Archived from the original on 22 October 2009. Retrieved October 14, 2017 – via Truth be Told.
  7. ^ Marques, Sara (5 September 2007). "'Eu não lhe fiz mal, só a matei'" ['I did not harm her, I only killed her']. IOLDiário (in Portuguese). Lisbon. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via Arquivo da Web Portuguesa.
  8. ^ a b "Maddy police chief falsified evidence". The Olive Press. San Luis de Sabinillas, Malaga, Spain. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  9. ^ Hamilos, Paul; de Beer, Brendan (3 October 2007). "Detective leading hunt for Madeleine sacked after blast at UK police". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Watts, Alex (14 September 2007). "Girl's Case 'May Solve McCann Mystery". Sky News. London. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Tweedie, Neil; Edwards, Richard (12 May 2007). "Have police failed Madeleine?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  12. ^ Antezana, Fabiola (26 September 2007). "Detective in McCann Case Investigated For Beating Convicted Child Murderer". ABC News. New York City. Retrieved 14 October 2017.