1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

24 children returned home

by Sónia Trigueirão

Raquel, aged 15, and Sandra, aged 13 (fictitious names) are Portuguese and part of the statistics of success cases in the recovery of missing children. They don’t know each other, but they share a similar story. One day, they left their homes to fall into the hands of sex predators, leaving their families in a state of shock and despair. They were found one-and-a-half months later with the help of the Polícia Judiciária. But during their period of absence they were physically and psychologically abused.

Raquel was enticed over the internet. The daughter of a poor family from the North of the country, she was seduced by the talk of a 34-year-old man, who picked her up in Oporto, having even sent her a mobile phone beforehand, so they could communicate discreetly. She was found one and a half months later, over 300 kilometres away from home, in the company of an alcoholic sexual abuser. The Portuguese Missing Children Association (APCD) collected her, helped her to change school and to return to her family. Raquel recovers from the trauma, while her abuser awaits trial. Sandra was “seduced” by a relative, through conversations on the internet, and personally. The PJ used international cooperation, and a month after her disappearance, she was found in France.

According to the Vice-president of the Portuguese Missing Children Association, Patricia Cipriano, the main motives for the disappearance of children in Portugal are flight or parental abduction. Disappearances due to criminal abductions, like child prostitution, still make up for a small percentage when compared to other European countries. Although, as Patricia explains, those statistical data are still insufficient

“Children are not a priority for politicians yet”, she stated, thus justifying the fact that among 27 countries that are members of the European Union, only 10, including Portugal, have the 116000 number in operation. Therefore, there is no exact number of missing children at a European level.

The numbers that are offered by the European Federation for missing and sexually abused children are few. But they give an idea about this worldwide problem. For example, in the United Kingdom, 140 thousand cases of missing children are reported every year. In the United States, 621 of the cases end up as murders.

Since January of this year, 24 cases of missing children were registered

In Portugal, according to PJ data, since January this year, 24 children below the age of 12 were reported missing. So far, all of them were found. From the 148 cases that were registered in 2008, only two remain unsolved.

The families of Sara Santos, Tatiana Nunes, Sofia Oliveira, Pamela Santos, João Teles, Claudia Alexandra, Jorge Sepúlveda, Rui Pedro and Madeleine McCann were less fortunate. The two latter cases were some of the most media exposed ones and disappeared without a trace.

Today is International Missing Children Day and Portugal marks the date with a campaign to publicise the new European emergency number. The number is already in operation but from today, its schedule will be widened and it will be available 24 hours per day, every day. The initiative, which is scheduled for 9.30 a.m. at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, is promoted by the Child Support Institute, which is headed by Manuela Eanes. The Secretaries of State for Internal Affairs, José Magalhães, and Justice, Conde Rodrigues, will be present.

More data

Females – From the youngsters that went missing in Portugal in 2008, 70 percent were femal, according to data from the Portuguese Missing Children Association (APCD).

75 percent in the North – According to data from the association, concerning geographical distribution, 75 percent of the disappearances in 2008 took place in the North, while the second greatest incidence of cases concerns the greater Lisbon area, with 25 percent.
APCD gives courses – The APCD [Portuguese Missing Children Association] wishes to give courses to journalists, for these to know how they can help in the publicising of the disappearance of a child. Its publication doesn’t always help, as it can lead to a precipitated death.

20 years – Parliament has approved the proposal that imposes that crimes of abuse, sexual exploitation of children and domestic violence stay on criminal records for twenty years.

Ten countries – From today, in ten member states of the European Union, it will be easier to ask for help. Portugal, Belgium, Slovakia, France, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Romania have joined the 116000 number.

source: Correio da Manhã, 25.05.2009


  1. We give thanks for twenty-four children returned safely home, even as we turn renewed attention to one child who has NOT returned home:

    “Officers hope to use the number to access phone company records dating back to May 3, 2007, the day Madeleine vanished from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz.”

    “The records will show which mobile phone masts Hewlett's phone connected to on specific dates. The information may help officers track Hewlett's movements the night Madeleine went missing and over the following days.” - Mirror.

    And while ‘officers’ are tracking Mr Hewlett’s movement on the night Madeleine went missing, officers might care to access phone company records and track the McCanns movements, not only on the night Madeleine went missing, but throughout the Renault Scenic days, when the McCanns went far and wide upon some urgent quest.

  2. The story of the Madeleine McCann 'abduction' doesn't fit, does it? What have their parents done with her body!

  3. Wishful-thinking no doubt, but what a breakthrough if the phone records of this shifty character implicated McCann in some way.

    Let's hope some real detectives reach him before those bob-a-job McCann mercenaries.


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