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Supreme Court of Justice - 'Joana case' ruling - Part I

Today, we start the publication of parts of the Supreme Court's ruling that reviewed the trial of Leonor and João Cipriano, condemning them to 16 years in prison over the death of Joana Isabel Cipriano Guerreiro.

These are, according to the initial trial, the facts that were proved in court, and those that were not:


9. Matter of fact according to the appealed court

9. 1. Facts considered to be proved:

a) the arguidos are siblings;

b) the arguido AA [João Cipriano] has never held a regular job or residence, living inside a vehicle or at his siblings’ house, surviving on occasional jobs that he performed on diverse locations;

c) the arguido AA manifests despise for human life – a result of a poor social adjustment and affective coldness – and has anti-social/psychopathic tendencies with a difficulty to control his impulses, which leads him to be aggressive, trying to solve conflicts through said aggressiveness, feeling no remorse for the consequences of the actions that he thus performs, despising other people’s rights, wishes or feelings;

d) through a ruling that has been validated in court, and given on 10.11.1993, arguido AA was condemned to a 4-year prison sentence over the practice, on 2.10.1992, of a crime of attempted homicide, (…). Said ruling includes that the arguido was convinced, by a third party that lived with one of the arguido’s sisters (GG) to take the life of another person who had left him blind, in exchange for 20.000$00 and a motorbike (…);

e) the arguida BB [Leonor Cipriano] manifests socially deviant behaviour at the level of norms, values and responsibilities, emotional instability and difficulties in expressing frustration, while her socialisation was marked by immature, superficial and narcissistic interpersonal relationships, where characteristics of manipulation (to satisfy her own needs) and aggressiveness (of mainly sadistic tonality) are stand out, while in her personality the absence of empathy and the insensibility are salient, leading to the arguida’s despise for other people’s rights, needs and sentiments, directing her aggressiveness towards them, with a weak capacity to feel remorse. She possesses a borderline personality with anti-social/psychopathic, narcissistic and schizoid traits;

f) the arguida BB, who has six children from five relationships, has been showing some lack of interest in her elder children, throughout her life;

g) concerning her eldest daughter, EE, who presently lives with her father and grandmother in Olhão, she left her there at the age of 11 months, never cared for her again, and didn’t ask about her, for 14 years;

h) her second child, FF, who lived with his paternal grandmother and presently lives with a paternal aunt, in Messines, was also left by her to the father, and she never cared for him again;

i) the fourth child, HH, who presently lives with his father in Porches, was left home alone by the arguido BB at the age of 7 months, buckled to his chair, which is how he was found by neighbours who perceived the situation;

j) at that time, arguida BB started living with II [Leandro Silva], a relationship that produced two children, JJ and KK;

l) the third child that she bore was CC [Joana], who was born on 31.05.1996, a daughter of LL;

m) minor CC, in September 2004, was aged eight, being thin and measuring between 1,20 and 1,40 metres; (2)

n) minor CC was sometimes sad;

o) the arguida BB did not exercise any professional activity;

p) when the arguida was living with partner II, minor CC helped her mother with some home chores, as she sometimes helped to clean the house, took care of her younger siblings and went shopping;

q) before arguida BB moved in with her partner II, she wanted to stop having CC under her care, and left her, at the age of 5 months, with her father, LL – with whom she had no relationship since the beginning of the pregnancy – who ended up ‘returning’ her 2 days later, and later, she once more handed her over to the father, who didn’t want to keep her;

r) in September 2003, arguida BB left CC under the care of a couple of persons with alcoholism problems and with a bed-ridden child that had an infecto-contagious illness, in a house with no conditions whatsoever, for 2 or 3 weeks;

s) on the first day of school for minor CC at the Primary School in Figueira, in the school year of 2003/2004, arguida BB didn’t walk the minor to school, and CC arrived with a neighbour, whom she asked for help because she couldn’t find the way;

t) on another occasion, the same neighbour took the minor to hospital, at a moment when she was visibly ill with a strong cough;

u) in the early morning of the 12th of September 2004, arguido AA, after a row with his brother UU, went to the arguida BB’s house, taking his clothes with him, and during the 12th he stayed in that house, which is located in the village of Figueira – Mexilhoeira Grande, in the area of Portimão;

v) in the late afternoon of the 12th, his sister, arguida BB, and her children, CC, JJ and KK, returned home;

x) at around 8 p.m. on that 12th of September, arguida BB sent CC to buy a package of milk and two cans of food, at a shop called “Pastelaria…”, in Figueira, at a distance of approximately 420 metres from the house;

z) the living room of the house where arguida BB lived, is located immediately after the main door and the door that offers access to the street has a handle on the outside that allows for direct entry into the residence;

aa) minor CC returned home from “Pastelaria…”, where she had bought the aforementioned food products;

ab) at a certain point in time, due to a motive that has not been exactly established, both arguidos started, conjointly, to successively hit minor CC on the head, prompting her to hit her head on the wall’s corner, being visible that she bled, from her mouth, her nose and her temple, due to the hits against the wall, which also caused the minor’s fall and her death, thus ceasing the arguidos’ activity;

ac) traces of blood from the minor remained on the living room’s walls and floor, on various spots, and also near the entrance;

ad) the arguidos ensured that CC was dead, verifying that she neither breathed nor reacted, and then, not wanting to be held responsible over their daughter’s and niece’s death, decided to prevent said death from becoming known to others;

ae) therefore, they soon decided that they would have to ensure that the existence of any signs in the house of what they had just done could not be verified, that the minor’s body would never be found and that, preferably, everyone would be convinced that the minor had been taken by a third party;

af) therefore, arguida BB remained at home, washing the wall and the floor that had signs of blood from CC, as well as the spot where the minor remained slumped after death, using a mop and its bucket to do so;

ag) and, as they knew that arguida BB’s partner – II – and his friend, MM, were about to arrive at home, and could discover what had happened there if they arrived before the traces were cleaned, at around 9.30 p.m. arguido AA left, headed towards “Pastelaria …”, where he met II and MM, who were already there, and whom he told that minor CC had not returned home;

ah) when the three of them returned home, arguida BB had already cleaned the existing blood marks, and equally mentioned that minor CC hadn’t returned home after doing the shopping;

ai) confronted with what the arguida was saying, II and MM decided to go out and look for the minor, while the arguidos remained at home;

aj) the arguidos then decided, conjointly, to cut the minor’s body in order to make it possible to store it in the deep freezer that existed in the living room;

al) to pursue that purpose, the arguidos provided themselves with a knife and a metal-cutting saw that were available inside the house, instruments that were apt to obtain the results that they intended, within approximately 30 minutes;

am) with said instruments, helping each other, the arguidos cut CC’s body, separating the head from the torso and cutting the legs at the knee area;

an) each one of those body parts was placed inside plastic bags – the head in one, the torso and part of the legs in another and the two legs below the knee in a third one – and after they knotted up the opening of the bag that contained the head, they tried, at least, to place said bags inside the deep freezer’s three compartments, leaving blood from the minor on several areas inside the deep freezer’s second drawer;

ao) the arguidos did not place the shoes that the minor was wearing, inside the bags, and all the pairs of shoes that the minor was using that summer, stayed inside the house;

ap) as the minor had already been dead for approximately two hours, not a lot of blood left the body;

aq) between 10.30 and 11 p.m., the arguida BB joined her partner II and MM, to whom she reiterated that CC was missing, and only at that point in time did she go to "Pastelaria ....." and asked the owner (NN) if CC had been there, then saying that she had disappeared;

ar) nevertheless, the arguida didn’t inform the police authorities about anything, despite there being GNR officers on duty in Figueira, because a popular fair called “Mussels Party” was taking place, and it was the third person (NN) that did it by telephone, at around 0.44 a.m. on the 13th of September, when she heard that the arguida hadn’t done so yet, and it was following said telephone call that the arguida ended up talking to GNR officers near the church in Figueira;

as) at that point in time the arguida said she hadn’t phoned because she had no credit on her mobile phone;

at) later on, at around 2 a.m., the arguida bought cakes in a pastry shop in the same village;

au) on the morning of the 13th, the arguida BB went to the GNR Station, in Portimão, accompanied by arguido AA, where she filed a complaint over the disappearance of CC;

av) and through the intervention of third parties, relatives of her partner II, the alleged ‘disappearance’ truly started to be publicised, with the distribution of photographs of CC, because until then the arguidos had intended not to alert the authorities;

ax) at the end of the night of the 13th, the arguidos left the house together, carrying a bag;

az) the arguido AA remained at the arguida BB’s house until the 14th, a time lapse during which the two arguidos, in a manner that was not possible to determine, transported CC’s mortal remains to an unknown location, thus fulfilling the intention that they had proposed themselves to – to prevent the finding of said mortal remains – and those remains have not been found to this day, just as the cutting instruments, which the arguidos have hidden in an unknown location, haven’t been found;

aaa) the arguida BB gave interviews to the media, trying to make believe that the minor had in fact disappeared, a version that she maintained in front of many of the people who were interested in the minor’s destiny and questioned her about the matter;

aab) during those interviews about the case, arguida BB sometimes mentioned her daughter in the past tense and wore a black blouse;

aac) ticks, namely so-called “little leads” (ticks in their early adult phase) have receptors for chemical stimuli that are associated to temperature, which allow for them to detect the existence of blood-specific chemical compounds;

aad) on the 18th of September, arguida BB bought petrol and a steel scrub-cloth, with which she washed the house, thus seizing the opportunity to erase almost all vestiges of what had happened there, and only traces of human blood which had been contaminated by the products that were used, remained inside the house;

aae) through an indication from arguida BB, Polícia Judiciária agents went to the house of arguida BB’ eldest daughter’s paternal grandmother (EE), in Olhão, searching for CC, and also investigated if an individual of Moroccan nationality had taken the minor;

aaf) when presented to a clinical psychologist, within an examination that was performed within the process’ scope, arguida BB mentioned the existence of neighbours of Brazilian nationality who might have taken CC with them, because they had two “good” cars and left the area on the same date on which the minor had “disappeared”;

aag) following indications from arguido AA, PJ agents searched for CC’s body in a brown earth embankment that is located near the road that accesses Mexilhoeira, then on other locations nearby, further away in Poço Barreto, in a wrecked car, in Silves, under the Arade River bridge;

aah) the arguidos managed to disturb the investigative activities and prevented the mortal remains of minor CC, whose life they took, from being located;

aai) the aforementioned activities were carried out by the arguidos under concerted efforts and intentions, in a deliberate, free and conscious manner, fully knowing that those behaviours are punished by law;

aaj) therefore as far as taking the life of CC, their direct relative (daughter and niece), is concerned, which they did by employing force, taking advantage of the fact that she couldn’t defend herself (taking into account her age and physical built) and using force in the full knowledge that, considering the vital area in which her body was hit (the head) repeatedly and violently, prompting the minor’s head to hit the wall, they could take her life away from her, a consequence which they accepted, still not ceasing their activity;

aal) not seeing as an obstacle the circumstance that the minor depended on her mother and was a direct relative of both, and should be defended instead of victimised by them;

aam) in the same deliberate, free and conscious manner, and knowing that such behaviour is punishable, they carried out the above described action of cutting CC’s body, demonstrating total insensibility, knowing full well that, in this manner, they offended the communitarian respect that is due to the dead, acting with the purpose of CC’s body never being found again, hiding it in a location that is not appropriated for the effect, in order to try to avoid responsibility for her death;

aan) the arguida BB has no criminal record;

aao) the arguido AA, apart from the above mentioned condemnation under item e), was further condemned, in 1995, under a sentence that has been validated in court, for the practise of a qualified theft, to a penalty, accumulating with the penalty that was imputed over the crime of attempted murder, of 3 years and 8 months in prison; in 2001, over the practise of a crime of illegal driving of a vehicle, he was condemned, under a sentence that has been validated in court, to a penalty of 90 days of fine; and in 2003, over the practise of a crime of illegal driving of a vehicle, he was condemned, under a sentence that has been validated in court, to a penalty of 6 months and 15 days in prison, which was suspended in its execution, in exchange for the compliance with conditions, a suspension that was later revoked;

aap) in terms of schooling, the arguida BB completed 3rd grade, never exercised any profession and married at the age of 18;

aaq) in terms of schooling, the arguido AA completed 4th grade and has worked since he left school, but always exercising undifferentiated services and without any contract;

aas) the arguidos were born within a large family (the parents and 9 siblings), where the father’s alcoholic habits and the financial difficulties stood out.

9. 2. Facts considered not to be proved:

1- that the arguida BB, throughout her life, failed to provide her children with basic care, mistreating them;

2- that HH, arguida BB’s son, was helped by neighbours;

3- that the arguida BB voted her daughter CC to disinterest and overloaded her with work, forcing her to carry out the domestic chores that she should perform but did not;

4- that the arguida BB abandoned CC, just like she had done with her other children;

5- that the second time when the arguida BB handed CC to her father, the minor was approximately aged 3;

6- that minor CC was a source of fighting between her mother, arguida BB, and the stepfather II, up to the point where she was threatened by them to be expelled from home;

7- that at around 8 p.m. on that 12th of September, when the two arguidos were alone, they decided to maintain sexual intercourse between them, being that BB’s minor children were no impediment for that action, because they were asleep in a room, but CC could not watch such actions;

8- that when CC ledt the house, the arguidos started to copulate with each other, on the living room sofa, and that they were still having intercourse when the minor returned home;

9- that upon seeing what her mother and uncle were doing, minor CC said that she was going to tell her stepfather that they were “doing dirty things”, and tried to leave the house;

10- that the arguidos got up from the sofa, heading towards CC, attempting to prevent her from denouncing what she had witnessed to II;

11- that CC hit the wall’s corner with the left side of her head and that said wall was the one that is located near the main door;

12- that CC tried to flee from the house, then being pulled inside by arguido AA;

13- that CC left hand prints and facial imprints on the walls, either on the outside or on the inside, near the main door;

14- that the arguidos placed the minor’s body, wrapped up in a duvet cover, in the corner of one of the bedrooms in the house, in a spot that was not visible to anyone who might eventually enter it, for later to decide what destiny it would be given;

15- that arguida BB used detergent and bleach to wash the wall and the floor where blood spots from CC were;

16- that arguido AA had a beer with II and MM, at the "Pastelaria ...", in order to further delay their return home;

17- that the arguidos thought about placing the minor’s body in a sanitary cess-pit that was located near the house, for which arguido AA went to the location, yet verified that such would not be possible because said pit’s lid was partially cemented, which he informed arguida BB about;

18- that the knife with which the arguidos cut the minor’s body had a black handle;

19- that the arguidos placed CC’s body on the living room floor, on a blanket;

20- that the arguidos knotted the opening of the bags that contained the torso and the legs;

21- that the arguidos effectively placed the three bags inside the tree compartments of the deep freezer;

22- that the arguidos changed the clothes that they were wearing and that arguida BB, once again that night, washed the blood that had remained on the floor;

23- that on the night of the 12th of September arguida BB invoked CC’s ‘disappearance’ to the persons that she met (with an exception for II, MM and NN whom she told about said ‘disappearance’);

24- that the bag which the arguidos were carrying late in the night of the 13th of September contained the instruments that had been used to cut the minor;

25- that meanwhile, ticks started to appear in the house, due to the aforementioned activity;

26- that already after her arrest, arguida BB did, several times, impute co-arguido AA with the full responsibility for the facts, also that she imputed MM with it as well, apart from having mentioned that the body was placed inside a car that was destined to be pressed in Spain, or on several locations that she indicated throughout time;

27- that arguido AA, during the first interrogation, indicated that CC’s body is beneath a bridge that connects Figueira with Mexilhoeira, on the opposite side of the location that had initially been indicated, and that, afterwards, he indicated a brother of his as having transported the body;

28- that the arguidos acted merely with the purpose to preven the minor from denunciating what she had seen, to her stepfather;

29- that the minor CC depended upon arguido AA."

source: Supreme Court of Justice - ruling SJ200604200003635, 20.04.2006


  1. What a terrible crime. Poor,poor little girl. Times like this I believe in bringing back the death penalty.


  2. Ironside, in Portugal sentences are a joke! 25 years is the maximum penalty for homicide, it doesn't matter if one kills one or a hundred , 25 years is the limit and even those 25 years are seldom aplied by the judges or fully served by the convicted criminal.
    It will be a very sad day for Portugal and the portuguese people if those two lowlives get a second trial and come out scott
    -free. I, for one, will completely and terminaly loose faith in portuguese justice and not only!
    If I had the chance I would leave for good!(but where to? there are no perfect paradises on earth, are there?)

  3. Astro, thanks for the translation but I think that you've made a mistake:

    "Factos dados como provados" doesn't mean "Facts to be proved" but, "Facts that have been proved"


    "Factos dados como não provados" doesn't mean "Facts not to be proved" but "Facts to be proved".

    In others words, the judges have considered that the motives and the circumstances of the murder have still to be proved.

    No wonder if there could be a new "julgamento" in this case, then...

  4. Anonymous @ 15.46, I stand by my translation. Thanks anyway.

  5. "aa) minor CC returned home from “Pastelaria…”, where she had bought the aforementioned food products;"

    There is no mention if those goods( two cans of tuna and milk) were ever found in the house by the police or if the arguidos did away with those! This was important evidence, if they were in the house it was proof that Joana had indeed managed to return to the house unharmed, she did not go missing on the way back.

    ..."at) later on, at around 2 a.m., the arguida bought cakes in a pastry shop in the same village;"

    This was the "distraught" mother of a little girl that had disappeared just some ours before!!! Poor Leonor, in her grief she still could not resist the smell of freshly baked cakes!I bet it was a consolation, a way to lessen her grief...(others go jogging or play tennis, to each its own...)

    Yet again the GNR showed its lack of appropriate procedures, a protocol for reported missing chiuldren. How was it possible that they did not go to the house immediately and conduct a search? I bet they wouyld still have found Joana's remains in the freezer.

    "9. 2. Facts considered not to be proved:

    1- that the arguida BB, throughout her life, failed to provide her children with basic care, mistreating them;"


    POOR LITTLE JOANA, she lived such a sad life in her short lived years.

  6. Astro,

    Maybe you're right and I'm wrong but that sounds to me very, very strange...

    Do you really think that the judges have considered that the fact that Leonor has six children is still to be proved and that she had sexual relationship with her brother has been proved?

  7. 9. 1. Factos dados como provados
    9. 1. Facts considered to be proved:(or, facts considered as proven)

    9. 2. Factos dados como não provados:
    9. 2. Facts considered not to be proved:(or, facts considered as not proven)

    Anon.@ 15:46, surelly you can see for yourself that Astro did not write "facts to be proved",and "facts not to be proved", what she wrote was "facts CONSIDERED to be proved",and "fact CONSIDERED not to be proved"! By omiting that word(BOTH TIMES!) you changed the sense of the phrase to its opposite...was it deliberate or were you not paying attention to what you're reading?...

    I too stick with Astro's translation, it raises no doubts to me.
    Well done Astro, as always!

  8. Can someone please refresh my memory? Why was Amaral moved from drug investigation? This removal was not a promotion, was it?


  9. Excuse me, but why does it say it was proved the blood was Joanna's? My understanding is that there was no DNA recovered or tested, so how on earth can that have been 'proved'?
    And how can it be 'proved' what they supposedly used to cut her up with, whe those items have never been found?
    No wonder there is another appeal.

  10. OH God, here we go again...uff!

    João Cipriano described to the police AND IN COURT how he dismembered Joana's body, the difficulties he found on doing this, etc., which were confirmed to be correct by a doctor!

  11. You're understanding is wrong Anonym. at 13/07/09 09:16, blood was found on the walls, on the freezer and was tested - it was DNA matched to Joana Cipriano's genetic profile.

  12. To the one who needs a memory refreshment: there is no evidence that make us believe that G. Amaral was moved from drug investigations. In fact all the investigations made by him and his team on drugs were all very well succeed. Then he went to crime and I believe it was a promotion, indeed. As you can see he is good on crime: until now he found that 3 children were murdered or died in strange circumstances: one in Azores, another is Joana and the last one was Madeleine. All deaths were related to the parents or close family, just like police statistics have already show us.
    May we have effective and rapid justice, brave judges and good forense tools for future (current?) crimes being solved quickly it.
    Same of this files still hot because justice does not work well, is slowly and consequently not effective. This represents a huge problem for all of us because promote a perverse and fake image that criminals get way without punishment.



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