Rui Pedro's case: Court condemns Afonso Dias to 3 years and 6 months in prison
Rui Pedro's missing alert | Fátima and Manuel Mendonça, Rui Pedro's parents
Rui Pedro Teixeira Mendonça disappeared on the 4th of March 1998. He was eleven years old. Fifteen years later to that day, the man who took Rui Pedro was condemned for his kidnap, and sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in jail.
In an interview given to RTP in 1998, Afonso Dias, 21 years old at that time, confirmed that he was the last person to be with Rui Pedro. On March 3, the day before the disappearance, Afonso, reportedly had arranged a meeting for the following day in the afternoon, between a prostitute, Rui Pedro and another child, Rui Pedro's cousin. However, on the 4th, the cousin’s mother didn’t allow the boy to go out with his friends. Filomena, Rui Pedro's mother, had already forbidden her son of playing with Afonso Dias.
Filomena thought that Rui was riding his bike in the usual safe place, near Lousada's junior high school. Instead, Rui was in Afonso's car. They travelled together in the regional road 106, in Lustosa direction.
Upon arriving to Lustosa, Afonso contacted a local prostitute, Alcina, and asked her to have sex with the child. Alcina hesitated, and Rui Pedro obviously distressed, started trembling and cried. Alcina ended up refusing the service, but kept a small conversation with Rui Pedro. After that, the child entered in Afonso Dias's car and was never seen again.
The reconstruction of that day was made in 2002, by the Judiciary Police with the help of, the then and now, primary and only suspect, Afonso Dias.
Rui Pedro suffered epilepsy seizures, one of the hypotheses that was advanced was that Rui Pedro suffered a severe convulsion which caused memory loss or his premature death.
Afonso Dias was acquitted at the Court of first instance of Lousada in February 2012. That Court, presided by judge Carla Fraga, based its decision on the "weaknesses" and "lack of consistency" of the testimony of the prostitute Alcina Dias, who, at the trial, guaranteed that she had been with Rui Pedro in March 4, 1998.
The family's lawyer, Ricardo Sá Fernandes, challenged the acquittal, arguing that the judgement of the Court of Lousada had been 'intoxicated' by the first investigative team of inspectors of the Judiciary Police that had dismissed the testimony of the prostitute, Alcina Dias, who assured at the time, that she saw Rui Pedro leaving in Afonso Dias' car.
The Public Ministry prosecutor, Amaro Neves and the child's parents, who constituted themselves as assistants to the process, sustained that it was after that meeting that Rui Pedro disappeared.
Today, the Court of Appeals of Porto gave reason to the appeal made by the Public Ministry, and partially to the appeal made by Rui Pedro's family and decided to condemn the only suspect for kidnap, Afonso Dias, to 3 years and 6 months of effective jail.
Paulo Gomes, Afonso Dias lawyer, stated that he will appeal against the latest ruling to the Supreme Court of Justice.
Filomena Mendonça and Ricardo Sá Fernandes, 2012
«When justice is done, when a judge, a court makes justice, this "washes the faces of us all". For me this is a very important day, very important for Filomena and for Manuel Mendonça [Rui Pedro's parents] (...), but it is above all a very important day to Rui Pedro because Rui Pedro may be alive and we will continue the search for him. And if he is not alive, his memory deserves that we carry on, until we know what happened to him.»
«It is the first victory, but not the last, the last victory will be when we know what happened to Rui Pedro», said emotionally, the family's lawyer Ricardo Sá Fernandes.
Filomena, Rui Pedro's mother, said that the decision by the court represents «a glimmer of hope and a little light at end of the tunnel». She added, «It's already something. It acknowledges what we always had thought, that he (Afonso Dias) is guilty, and is therefore a confirmation».
Filomena Teixeira now hopes that the arguido, and then friend of Rui Pedro, breaks the silence that he has maintained regarding to what happened to Rui Pedro 15 years ago. «It is about time!»
Questioned about what she intends to do, Filomena said: «From now on, it's to fight to find Rui Pedro, alive or dead».
Today's decision, that condemned the arguido, Afonso Dias, to three years and six months of effective jail, coincides exactly with the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of Rui Pedro.
Note by JM: Mr. and Mrs. McCann, we do hope that you don't try, like you did in March 2011 to use this tragedy once again in your propaganda. You see, unlike you, Rui Pedro's parents did EVERYTHING in their power to keep Rui Pedro's case open in order to try to find out what happened to their son. Unlike you, Rui Pedro's parents were the FOUNDERS of the Association for Portuguese Missing Children, a real CHARITY and not a PRIVATE COMPANY. Unlike you, they used their OWN MONEY to search for their child. Unlike you, they have HELPED other families and parents of missing children instead of (ab)using them - need I mention names? So, please, keep what's left of the dignity you still have and leave this family, this child, this case alone. And while at it, stop desecrating Joana Cipriano's memory. Thank you.