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

1100 children and teenagers missing in 2009

by Filipa Ambrósio de Sousa

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.


  1. The punishment meted out to those who harm children is not great enough, and more often the danger to the child is from those closest to them than from a stranger.

    Some are crafty manipulative people who manage to get away with what they have done. Instead of being punished they get sympathy, and sometimes money given them instead.

    Those little children have no escape, and often are unable to tell anyone of the suffering they have to endure before they are killed.

    If only people were more watchful and willing to step in and interfere when they believe a child is being harmed, and if only those in authority would pay more attention, because they are not always willing to listen.

    A mother recently in the UK killed her 5 year old daughter by stabbing her 52 times in a ritualistic killing, the little child begging for her life and heard by neighbours who called the police.

    It took them hours to turn up by which time the little girl was dead, lying on her bed with her bedroom stripped of even the wallpaper. So much for the UK Police, eh.

    The child's grandmother had even tried to get the child away that day from her daughter who did the killing, and had earlier called the police, but the child's mother managed to get believed by them and they left the child with her.

    Also the child's father had tried to stop her having the child as the woman had previously wounded him.

    It is madness that people always seem to think the mother is the best one to have the child. Not always the case. Some mothers are really crazy, as this one was. But she was obviously crafty as well.

    She had a past history of mental problems that was known about to SS and police, yet they still let her have the child.

    Did the safety of that child mean nothing to those in authority? The so called professionals. Surely they should have listened to those who knew what was going on.

    So much for the professionals, eh.

    Sorry to digress, but it is all so sickening and tragic.

  2. Anonymous 1

    Your post provides a lot of food for thought. No apology for digressing required.

    Unfortunately the McCann case, affair, celebrity roadshow, or whatever one wishes to call it, seriously distracts from the many cases of missing and abused children, each of which deserves just as much publicity.

    Given the propensity of the media and political establishment for denial I am also afraid that the McCann case, affair, celebrity roadshow or whatever one wishes to call it, will do little to highlight the problem of missing children generally or achieve any improvement in how it is approached in the future.

    Sorry to be so pessimistic, I hope I'm wrong :)

  3. wellcome to great britain,trouble is this abuse is happening every week to some children,and every time it brought up in the papers its the same old mantra of lessons will be learned by this.

  4. Sorry! I must have misunderstood! I distinctly remember someone saying that the case of the missing Madeleine Mccann is the first to happen since the advent of the internet.

    These poor children could not possibly have disappeared, there is only one missing child - Madeleine Mccann!

  5. Dear SB,

    :-/ If the son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter of a pro-eminent Portuguese (someone high up in the ideological state apparatus) went missing, particularly if it went "missing" (brackets)then they would probably joins forces with the McCanns since they already have the PR know-how. The problem might be that there aren't that many millionaires in Portugal on a par with Branson and (what's his name?). There are comparatively less. Even for millionaires there is a limit to their self-promoting budgets and most keep it quite. The McCann's case has captured the public's imagination. The same dynamics applies to fashion. Take hair-cuts for example. Some musicians are truly exceptional yet you have never heard of them, etc. Perhaps is just the "clinical gaze", the arrogance, the antipathy the McCann's radiate and the contempt for justice they have shown. Could that be it?

    On a more serious vein, I am truly shocked to see the number of children gone missing in Portugal. The world has gone crazy.


  6. And I really do wonder how many more 'McCann's'happened or will happen in the future.Has anybody heard anything of poor Thyphaine in France - who 'vanished'and the 'heardbroken parents',who 'searched and all'?Well it wasn't quite in every headline all over the world - perhaps because they didn't start a 'Fund'- I don't know - but what I know is the outcome of this 'story' and it's a sad one - the 'parent's' confessed in the End that they killed her - a 'punishment went wrong'and the pretence did start...

  7. Could you tell us where the 116,000 children missing across Europe statistic comes from? Then ask yourself: do you trust it? Based on the Portuguese statistics and the relative populations of Portugal and the rest of the EU, it would be amazing indeed if the number of "missing" children including runaways were found to exceed 10,000 across all Member States combined.


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