The Portuguese Missing Children Association (APCD) requested the Public Ministry (MP) for the constitution of the non-governmental organization as an assistant in the process relative to the alleged author of the abduction of Rui Pedro, who disappeared in March 1998, in Lousada.
According to a judicial source the APCD, in the application to which Lusa agency had access, states that “to become an assistant is the decision that best sits with the superior interest of the child, victim of the crime which is imputed to the arguido [i.e. judicially accused]”.
The assistants have the status of collaborators to the Public Ministry (MP), to whose activities the APCD subordinates its intervention in the process, being allowed to offer evidence and request further measures with the aim of seeking for the truth.
The non-governmental organization, which operates on the field, in the areas of protection and prevention of missing children, and in psychological and legal support to the families, stresses that it “upholds the interest in defending and protecting children against” kidnapping.
“In the abduction crime when the victim is a child, who disappears without knowing anything regarding the child's destiny, at stake are private interests but also public ones which embody the protection of all children against this type of crime”, adds the APCD.
Therefore, the APCD, set up by the initiative of the parents of the Portuguese missing children, adds that “it is a duty of the civil society to contribute actively for the elimination, as much as possible, of the criminality against children”.
The organization, presided by Patrícia de Sousa Cipriano, also notes that the families of the missing children are “aggrieved party and hold a special interest that all cases of child abductions are resolved swiftly and fairly”.
Rui Pedro disappeared when he was 11 years old, the suspect of the abduction was questioned and constituted as an arguido in November of 1999, over a year and a half after the disappearance of the child.
Three schoolmates of Rui Pedro saw him abandon his bike and get into the car of the accused on the afternoon of March 4, 1998.
On that day, the investigation uncovered that the arguido intended for Rui Pedro to have sex with an alleged prostitute for the return of 10 euros, having said that the child was 14 years old.
The family reported his disappearance at 22pm; the GNR did the searches jointly with firefighters, family members, locals and friends of Rui Pedro.
A month later, after Rui Pedro's disappearance, the family granted that the minor appeared in a magazine story held at Eurodisney, in Paris, however in that day the surveillance cameras were off, as was guaranteed by a representative of Disney Portugal.
In the investigation, the alleged prostitute recognized the minor in a photo, and on 26 February of this year, the MP decided to prosecute the arguido, accusing him of the qualified crime of abduction of Rui Pedro.
in Público April 12, 2011
APCD has requested its constitution as assistant in the abduction case of Rui Pedro. We hope with this initiative to be able to cooperate actively with the Public Ministry in the discovery of the truth, and thus, to change definitely the understanding and procedures used in the investigation of missing children.
The abduction of a minor is a case of extreme gravity, which cannot continue to be treated as if it were an adult.
A child is a being naturally vulnerable and without any means of defence.
It is both the civil society and the State who become compromised every time that a child is raped, abducted or abused. It is a sign that we failed to protect the child properly, and that, before a criminal act we were unable to act swiftly and effectively.
The APCD, by requesting its constitution as an assistant, aims to make an active and innovative position in such cases.
The law has to clearly predict that institutions like ours can act as assistants in criminal proceedings, as already happens with institutions in support of victims of domestic violence.
We count on your strong support in the divulgation of this initiative and trough the manifestation of your agreement of our request to the Court.
Patrícia de Sousa Cipriano
President of APCD's direction » via Portuguese Missing Children Association cause page at Facebook
Broadcast by SIC Portuguese TV channel on 28/02/11 - Criminal Record with Hernâni Carvalho, Dr. Paulo Sargento, Dr. Patrícia de Sousa Cipriano, João Filgueiras(Former photojournalist) and Manuel Mendonça, Rui Pedro's father (on the phone)
Criminal Record – Special
Hernâni Carvalho (HC) – “Good Morning, on March 4 of 1998, about 2pm, Rui Pedro went missing in Lousada. The parents would know about his disappearance, late in the afternoon. Since then until today the whole country knows that Rui Pedro went out, the whole country knows that Rui Pedro disappeared, and to tell the truth, the suspects have remained the same. 13 years later, 13 years and 72 pages later, finally came the accusation. The man that has been a suspect since the first minute, of being connected to Rui Pedro’s disappearance was finally accused. Truth or consequence, there is only one truth that is known after this accusation: No one knows what has happened to Rui Pedro. Let us watch how it all took place.”
Journalist Voice Over (VO): “From major suspect to accused of the crime of qualified kidnapping - the conclusion is from the Public Ministry. On March 4 of 1998, Afonso Dias took Rui Pedro to unknown place and destiny.”
Rui Pedro’s family lawyer, Ricardo Sá Fernandes (archive image from February 2011): “It is not yet what Rui Pedro’s parents wish, which is to find him, to know what happened to him, but is nevertheless a sense of renewed hope.”
VO: “Thirteen years have gone by since Rui Pedro went missing from Lousada.”
Marinho e Pinto, actual head of the Portuguese Lawyers’ Order (archive image from February 2011): “13 years is too much for a criminal process, to investigate, to deduce an accusation ruling, which is why I believe the Public Ministry should clarify publicly what has happen. Which were the new elements that surfaced or were discovered, that allowed the Public Ministry to make the accusation now? If there aren’t any new elements, then why did it take so much time?”
VO: “The director of the Department of Criminal Investigation and Penal Action [DCIAP] acknowledges that there isn’t new evidence and explains that the magistrate who in the last five years has headed the investigation has exceptional technical and human qualities, and that the leads remained opened but none explored until being closed 1 [sic?]. The process was transferred to the DCIAP in 2003. The accusation is based on several witness statements, searches, expert examinations and reconstitutions. The accused incurs in a penalty that might reach 10 years and 8 months in jail. Afonso Dias has 33 years today and is married. The process expires at the end of 15 years, two years to end.”
HC: “13 years, 72 pages, 60 witnesses heard, 3 reconstitutions, DNA examinations, evaluated photographs, a car inspected, cell phones, cell phones bills, some searches. It seems a lot, however all of these to be made in 13 years it does not seem much. In fact, I would even say that in some other places someone would have been accused of being less committed. The fact is, that along this process there were several investigative teams, firstly, and obviously, the GNR, which is the first police force that receives the problem. Then the Judiciary Police, later on, from 2003 onwards, the prosecutor, with whom a series of strange events occur. Then, after 2007, the team that gave origin to the current accusation. (turning to a guest) What should one do? Good morning.”
Patrícia de Sousa Cipriano (PSC): “Good morning.”
HC: “Dr. Patrícia Cipriano is the president of the Portuguese Missing Children Association [APCD]. When a child goes missing, what should one do?”
PSC: “Immediately one should report it at the closest Judiciary Police duty personnel [24/7 assistance] station, preferably, that is the advice that we give to those who contact us. Then, evidently, to try to follow up, step by step, the investigations. Not allow them to be stalled. That is why this organization also exists, for the last three years, it's role is to, effectively, accompany. Now, I can’t overlook that still today there are several difficulties regarding the investigation of the missing in Portugal.”
HC: “Allow me to make a small interruption to say, that which you advise is exactly what Rui Pedro’s parents did.”
HC: “Yet thirteen years went by…”
PSC: “Even so… And why? It seems to me, from the experience that we have had, the methods and the timings that are used in the investigation of missing children have to be improved, both in terms of protocols and at the level of mechanisms the police has at their disposal, in order to be able to work.”
HC: “There is an European hotline number for Missing Children.”
PSC: “Yes, there is.”
HC: “Do you want to say the number? Do you remember it?”
PSC: “Yes, I know the number. It’s 116 000.”
HC: “116 000, is the European number in case a child goes missing, anywhere in Europe call the 116 000.”
PSC: “Exactly, I would like to make a minor warning so people know that 116 000 is not yet working 24 hours a day. It is not our institution that manages that number; it is the Institute of Child Support (IAC). Regardless, the APCD has a 24/7 service, available…”
HC: “And has an internet site”
PSC: “….An internet site, yes. And also has a protocol established with the Directory of General Health [DGS], which is going to work at the public health hotline level, that is the 800 24 24 24, where people can make contact 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and then are forwarded or to the association or to the Judiciary Police, depending on their case.”
HC: “So your association is an instrument of pressure, next to the authorities …”
PSC: “As well.”
HC: “…and, excuse my expression, a resource optimizer.”
PSC: “Exactly. That is what we aim to be.”
HC: “You have existed for the past three years.”
PSC: “Yes, three years.”
HC: “I would like to say again that the advice given by the association is exactly what Rui Pedro’s parents did, the mother, the father, Rui Pedro’s grandfather who has passed away meanwhile… All these steps were taken, repeated, explored, and despite that much of what was made known, in useful time, wasn’t found out by the police. But, let us know who that man is, who, thirteen years after being the first suspect, is today accused of Rui Pedro’s abduction.”
VO: (archive images from 1998): “When he was interviewed in 1998, just a few days later after Rui Pedro’s disappearance, Afonso Dias confirmed that he was the last person to be with boy. – I was the last one to be with him, that is what everyone says and I confirm that it was me that was with him at 1.45pm, but for him to have gone missing, I don’t say that it was me the last person to be with him because someone, certainly, if he disappeared then he had to go with someone. – Statements that are only partially truth, the Judiciary Police would find another version of the events and other facts pertaining to that day. On March 3, the day before the disappearance, Afonso, Rui Pedro and a cousin had, reportedly, arranged a meeting for the following day in the afternoon, and the meeting should be kept secret. The tree boys had decided to meet a prostitute. However, on the 4th, the cousin’s mother didn’t allow the boy to go out with the friends. For Afonso Dias and Rui Pedro the day continues as planned. (cut to infographic showing the timings/events) Between noon and 1:00pm, Rui Pedro had lunch in the family restaurant, at that time Afonso Dias was also having lunch in the house where he lived in Freamunde. Then he left in his Fiat Uno to meet with Rui Pedro, they met about 13:50. Rui Pedro then met his mother at her place of work to ask her permission to go out with a friend. The mother refuses, but he goes anyway. He rides his bike up to a vacant lot close to the junior high school, there he enters Afonso’s car. They travel together in the regional road 106, in Lustosa direction. There Afonso contacts a local prostitute, and asks her to have sex with the minor. She hesitated, and Rui Pedro distressed, started trembling and cried. The prostitute ended up refusing the service, but kept a small conversation with Rui Pedro. After that, the boy enters the car owned by Afonso Dias and is never seen again. Until 18:45 it is unknown the whereabouts of Afonso Dias, at that hour he met with his girlfriend.
The reconstruction of that day was made in 2002, by the Judiciary Police with the help of, the then, primary suspect. The inspector, who accompanied the case at the time, is now retired. (cut to the retired officer using laptop) – That reconstruction allowed us to see the incongruences, of the situation in which Afonso had become implicated. The nervousness that he showed, throughout his insecurity during the course of the reconstruction we could see that he wasn’t genuine, that he was fabricating the hour. – The Police investigated but the Public Ministry didn’t make an accusation at that time, only now, thirteen years later. And only after several criticisms were made by the family to the manner in which the investigation was conducted.”
HC: “During the last three years, Afonso Dias, the man accused of Rui Pedro’s kidnapping gave several versions with numerous contradictions. Good Morning Dr. Paulo Sargento.”
Paulo Sargento (PS): “Good morning.”
HC: “Dr. Paulo Sargento, is a professor of forensic psychology and a forensic psychologist. The big doubt and big question, that I want to ask you is, without further ado, why does a man of 21 has a special ‘preference’ in dealing with children 10 years younger than him? The preferential friendships of Afonso at 21 years old, even after the military service – some say that the military service changes men, or helps them to grow – it wasn’t the case, and he continued to befriend young children, with 10, 11, 12 years old…”
PS: “Apparently there is that immature register. If a relationship between two persons, with a difference of 10 years, from above twenty years old means nothing, at that time it’s quite asymmetrical, even more because we have a fully grown man and prepubescents. Moreover, it would be so notoriously asymmetric, and somewhat strange, that Rui Pedro’s family tried, several times, to prevent the socialization between the two. In fact, there is also another child who was prevented to go to that meeting. There is another issue, which has to do with the sexual initiation of adolescents; we have to be fair about this and not politically correct, there are still vast numbers of people who are initiated in to sex via prostitution. This initiation via prostitution - otherwise there wouldn’t be any prostitutes, if clients didn’t exist – is often done by older individuals; but we are talking of age differences, let’s suppose, of a teenager with 15, 14 years old…”
HC: “When they become adolescents…”
PS: “Exactly… someone who is more experienced, that would have had some kind of previous sexual experience, maybe even to take his friends with some kind of show-off attitude, perhaps in order to maintain his role as a ‘group leader’, he would invite his friends to be initiated in that fashion, sexually - that would be understandable. In this case is far more strange, far more strange.”
HC: “What is not understandable, for me, is how this man, who is guilty of Rui Pedro’s disappearance, decides to call his first child João Pedro. It’s bizarre.”
PS: “Right, there are things, that due to their structural similitude, or semantic, makes one inclined to draw parallelisms, in order to find a line to allow us to make sense of things.”
HC: “It’s a strange coincidence.”
PS: “It is a strange coincidence. The fact is, this process of Rui Pedro, also reproduces something that is fundamental, and that is the big difference in circumstances, in what concerns the support, the searches, the means made available in relation to other cases, namely in the Maddie case. We never know if it is because they were foreigners or if it has to do with something else, but they had much more support. Simultaneously, this case constitutes a key example of all the children who disappeared in Portugal, some as long as, others longer than Rui Pedro, and that is something that we continue to be virtually powerless in relation to.”
HC: “That is exactly what I wished to ask Rui Pedro’s father. Good Morning.”
Manuel Mendonça (MM), Rui Pedro’s father on the phone: “Good Morning.”
HC: “Manuel Mendonça, is Rui Pedro’s father. The question I have for you is relative to what Dr. Paulo Sargento has just referred, did you feel any difference when you saw the support given by the Portuguese authorities to Maddie’s disappearance?”
MM: “Well, regarding the police support, no, I didn’t feel any difference at all, because the policemen certainly had the same willingness for Rui Pedro's case as they had for Maddie’s case. The only difference was the pressures, the political pressures; they were stronger on Maddie’s case than on my son’s case. All the officers that were in the case did as much as they could. My only regret was, I always asked, we always asked for – we did not need 20, 30 nor 40 police officers - we just wished for two or three officers in my son’s case. To work in Pedro’s case alone, so they could arrive at the current conclusion, something which has taken place after thirteen years. If only they had helped more at the beginning. When the police officer came in here, he came running because he had to go to other places; sometimes he drove by and would stop just to comfort and speak with us. He would stop in here for a while but then would be forced to deal with other cases - that was the lack of support, the lack of support to our police officers. That was what happened… Now, at this moment, what I feel is that the exact same thing continues take place. We continue to feel unsupported, because this happened – the last team that handled Pedro’s case, was a team that did an excellent work, but at this time, we feel that we still need to know more, we need this to move on. If there is a suspect now, in fact it isn’t now, it’s since the first hour, I believe that is more than time for justice.”
HC: “In your opinion, why did we take 13 years to make an accusation?”
MM: “Well, personally I would accuse that person on the first day. For me he was a suspect since the beginning.”
HC: “He was accused in the people’s minds, but not in the law… in the justice, it was just days ago, on the 11th of February.”
MM: “Right, right, not on the law. The team that I mentioned wasn’t prepared initially to do what was eventually done, to scrutinize what was true or not, to discard wrong leads, in order to arrive more quickly to this point.”
HC: “Immediately, on the first interrogatory, or in the second, Afonso Dias says – If you want to find Rui Pedro you should close the borders – at that time, the question is exactly like this, at that time didn’t you pressure the police, so in their turn they would then pressure Afonso to tell what he knew?”
MM: “Yes, he was pressured. But the police complained that it wouldn’t work, because the Public Ministry did a mistake right at the beginning. If they had been able to keep him under arrest on that night – whilst Pedro didn’t appear, Afonso shouldn’t be released – then he wouldn’t have so much time to create in his head the story he hold to for the last thirteen years. Afonso was released, his car was released; and I blame partially those who were in charge of the Public Ministry here, in Lousada. If Afonso had been arrested at that time this would have been solved earlier.”
HC: “Mr. Manuel, I have here with me João Filgueiras who was a photographer, at that time, in 1998, who went to Paris to do a job for a magazine, and when he saw the pictures he took published, he couldn’t believe the problem that surfaced related to those photographs. Do you remember Caras magazine photograph, where a child appeared, a child that was strikingly similar with your son?”
MM: “Yes, yes, I continue to say that it is Pedro.”
HC: “You continue to say that it is Pedro.”
MM: “It’s him.”
HC: “And at that time, what was done, exactly?”
MM: “At that time, well, I knew about that news report early on a Sunday morning, I went immediately to Oporto with a cousin, and the police told me that they would investigate. However, it ended in nothing. They told me that the surveillance cameras weren’t working, etc, etc. And now, the PJ tells me that it is very unlikely that it is Pedro.”
HC: “This child that we can see in the photograph, in the background, dressed in dark clothes, and is standing close to a man, a bald man – was this man ever dully identified?”
MM: “That man, we tried to find who he was, and we arrived to the conclusion that he was likely a Portuguese man, on the other hand the PJ also told me that he wasn’t who we thought he was.”
HC: “This happens a month after…”
MM: “It was a exactly a month later.”
HC: “An exact month after your son’s disappearance.”
MM: “Yes, that photograph was taken on the 4th of April.”
HC: “In Paris, at the EuroDisney?”
MM: “Yes, yes.”
HC: “And afterwards, were there any credible sightings?”
MM: “There were several other sightings, but the one in which I believe more is in that one. ”
HC: “The other sighting made by an individual in Sweden, that one didn’t make sense for you?”
MM: “No, no, it didn’t. The one in which I believe is in that photograph.”
HC: “At that time, contacts were made with the EuroDisney, who strangely, and unfortunately, had the surveillance camera off on that day… Meanwhile, Manuel has a wife, obviously, has a daughter who at the time was younger than Rui Pedro…”
MM: “Yes, yes.”
HC: “…From the little that I know of, my apologies for what I’m going to say, your life was ruined, as family?”
MM: “No, it wasn’t ruined. By chance it wasn’t ruined, we are still together…”
HC: “ No, I didn’t mean in it that way, was it altered? You started to live in function of the disappearance.”
MM: “Yes, it was changed. But we continue to work, I continue to work, Mena 2 was more affected, she is having health problems. Even yesterday, our daughter was looking at her medical analysis and told her mum that she should check for health issues… Carina… we do not forget, each one of us is one but we are also one together. If we are together, we are together, and we continue to fight. By the way, I would like to say something: earlier on, I heard on a TV programme, there was an individual who called the TV programme affirming that the blame was of the parents. That man said that his son only does what he tells him to do, well that man must treat his son like dog, because my Pedro was a 11 year old child who practised karate, he practised hockey, he played soccer, he attended a private school until he was 10, 11 years old, we picked him at school, we took him to school. Carina, our 21-year-old daughter is in the 4th year of medical school that proves that Rui Pedro’s parents are not the kind of parents who abandon their children.[visibly emotional]”
HC: “Of course not. Manuel I have a last question, your family meanwhile lost Rui Pedro’s grandfather, who has committed himself entirely to this search. Whom, at a certain time, was conned by those who promised everything to find Rui Pedro”
MM: “Yes, that’s true. ”
HC: “He paid a private investigation out of his pocket, in Switzerland, if I remember well, can you speak to us about that?”
MM: “The cost of the travels to Switzerland, we paid for that. There was a certain individual who said that he ‘would do it’ and it was my father-in-law who paid for all the expenses.”
HC: “You’re referring to the man that was in jail and was released to go and find Rui Pedro.”
MM: “Yes, yes.”
HC: “The man to whom your father-in-law gave his credit card, unlimited, three cell phones and a Volvo car.”
MM: “Yes, an unlimited credit card.”
HC: “And from that man, did you get any news from him?”
MM: “No, we never heard from him again.”
HC: “So, you just know that you gave him that.”
MM: “Yes, it was the credit card and a rented car.”
HC: “Your father-in-law died without ever knowing his grandson’s faith.”
MM: “My father-in-law, and more…”
HC: “Manuel, you have the hope, of course?”
MM: “Yes, I do. I just wanted to say a couple of words. My apologies.”
HC: “Please, do.”
MM: “That which I am suffering, many are suffering and others will suffer too, I believe that is the fault of our politicians, of all of them after the 25th of April 3. The 25th of April happened, many things changed, but some laws are still from that time and others from before. The politicians simply do not care; they do not make laws for the police authorities to have more availability to perform, to do their work. In the time that they should have made a stand, in the Maddie case I didn’t see nor heard, the President of the Republic, nor the Prime-Minister, nor the Justice Minister giving their faces for that policeman who they have tried to denigrate. It was easier to malign the image of that policeman than to say that in Portugal there is Justice. It was necessary to reduce that man to dust, and other things that were tried. If our authorities, our Government had said – No, that man is being paid by us, that man knows the truth - maybe now we would be able to know more about Maddie.”
break from the translator at 23:25, to be continued
1 The sentence doesn't make sense in Portuguese nor in any other language. Sic - lat. literal/translation.
2 'Mena', diminutive of Filomena, Rui Pedro's mother name.
3 Portuguese Carnation Revolution.
Name: Rui Pedro Teixeira Mendonça
Today's Age: 24 years old
Eyes Color: Brown
Hair Color: Brown
Disappeared on: 04.03.1998
From: Lousada (Portugal)
Contact/more Info: Portuguese Judiciary Police site