Ana Filipa Prudêncio da Silva, aged 14, escaped her parents' house on her own. She was wearing jeans and a pink jacket, and that is the last image of her that her parents keep. This is one of the most recent cases in the Polícia Judiciária's statistics, which is still being investigated by this criminal police force.
Officially, in 2009 the PJ has counted approximately 1100 cases of missing youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18. This number, which reports exclusively to Lisbon is "relatively lower than on previous years", explains Ramos Caniço, the head of the PJ's missing children department, in a statement to DN.
The reasons for running away? "They are not always linear." They can be due to running away with their boyfriends, or because of school grades, at the beginning of school holidays or even because they get lost in areas that they don't know well."
This is in the case of children under the age of 12. But the PJ investigator alerts: "The number of filled reports does not match the number of traceless children because there are many that go missing more than once. I even recall the case of a boy who went missing more than ten times", he explained to DN.
Most cases in 2009 were runaways or abductions, but in three cases, the PJ ended up finding out that the youngsters had been murdered. "One of the cases was in the summer, in the area of Castelo Branco, in which the Homicide department managed to discover the author of the crime and to arrest him", Ramos Caniço concluded.
According to data from the Child Support Institute, the numbers of missing people have been increasing steadily. In 2004, 25 cases were registered, in 2005 they were 17, in 2006 31 cases entered the PJ, and in 2007 it went up to 34. In 2008, the raise was more noticeable: it went up to 76.
Within a European context, in 2008, 116 thousand children were missing
According to the same data, but relating only to 2008, 44% of the minors that had been reported missing (34) were aged between 11 and 15, while in 21 of the cases the youngsters were aged between 16 and 18. Five cases were reported concerning chidlren with ages that range from only months until five years.
Concerning their provenance, in most cases (40 %) the minors resided in the district of Lisbon (31 cases), 17 went missing in Oporto, six in Setúbal, and four in Faro and Santarém. One case of children missing abroad was also communicated (three Belgian girls- parental kidnapping).
Most of the reported missing cases concerns runaways (62 out of the 76 cases), especially from home, but also from foster institutions. Nevertheless, one case fits the concept of abduction by a third party - allegedly, a couple wanted to keep a child that they were taking care of [Esmeralda Case]- and 12 concerned parental abduction.
The most media-exposed cases are those of Madeleine McCann and Rui Pedro Antunes. The British child went missing from Praia da Luz, in Lagos, in May 2007. The Portuguese child, Rui Pedro, disappeared 11 years ago and would presently be aged 22.
Rui Pedro Teixeira Mendonça
Presently aged 22
Disappeared on the 4th of March 1998
Madeleine Beth McCann
Presently aged 6
Disappeared on the 3rd of May 2007
Sara Alexandra Gomes Seiça Ribeiro
Presently aged 14
Disappeared on the 30th of September 2009
Sara Sofia Lopes dos Santos
Presently aged 4
Disappeared on the 1st of January 2009
Ana Filipa Prudêncio da Silva
Presently aged 14
Disappeared on the 20th of December 2009
Ana Patrícia da Silva Torquato
Presently aged 15
Disappeared on the 17th of April 2009
in Diário de Notícias
Portuguese Child Support Institutions:
IAC - Instituto de Apoio às Crianças The Child Support Institute is a Private charity established on 14 March 1983, by a group of people from different professional backgrounds - Doctors, judges, teachers, psychologists, lawyers,sociologists, social workers, educators, etc..
SOS Crianças - Children's Help Line (since 1998) A children help line, open 24 hours, aimed at children in need or at risk. They offer judicial and psychological counseling. Numbers: 21 793 16 17; Número Verde 800 20 26 51, and 1410.
Aldeias SOS - SOS Children's Villages (since 1949) An institution that supports children, their motto is «Love and a Home for each Child.»
Ajuda de Berço - Cot Help
Cot Help, founded in 1998, welcomes children from 0 to 3 years, in need of urgent protection,who face situations that put them at risk, such as abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholic parents and drug addicts, prostitution, homelessness or abandonment.
Miudos Seguros na Net - Children Safe in the Net
MiudosSegurosNa.Net is a project that helps families, Schools and Communities to promote online safety for children and young people.
APDC-Associação Portuguesa de Crianças Desaparecidas - Portuguese Association of Missing Children (since May 2008), is an association that aims to help and support all those who have lost a child.
There are many more institutions that provide care for children, from the foster home 'Refugio Aboim Ascensão' (founded in 1933), to international organizations like Unicef. For missing Child cases, there is also the unique European number 116000, which was adopted by Portugal since September 2008.