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Investigations to missing people never expire

by Rute Coelho

Translation by Joana Morais paper addition


PRIORITIES Cases involving children are considered urgent. Very often a disappearance turns out to be a crime of homicide.

by Rute Coelho


92 missing people appear in the Polícia Judiciaria's database, including adults and children. The inspector Ramos Canico points out a fundamental difference between homicide cases and the investigations to missing people: “Missing people cases never expire. Homicide cases lapse 15 years after the crime, if an arguido [formal suspect] isn't constituted.”


In the investigations to the missing there is also a principle investigators have already in mind. “Most adults disappear on their own free will.” This means the investigations to missing children are always a priority. And then there are cases that are kept in the missing persons database even though they are classed with a different category. “Madeleine McCann is a case registered as an abduction, even though there aren't any evidences that she was kidnapped.”


In the cases of the missing found dead, the cause of death is, usually, an accident. Ramos Caniço gives the the example of an elderly man who was found dead by the police section that investigates missing person cases in Lisbon, just six days after being reported missing. “He fell down in a ditch close to a river three kilometres away from his house. He died of cold.”


In 2010, the missing persons section of Lisbon started investigating a case that turned out to be an homicide. “The corpse of a man was found floating in a dam in Alentejo. The man was reported as missing, however, it was an homicide case. We found the suspect in Lisbon withdrawing money with the victim's credit card and the case was transferred to the Homicide unit.”


In cases of missing children, the missing persons section of Lisbon guarantees that “at present, there is no child aged up to ten years old missing in the Lisbon area.” The exception to this being the very old cold cases.

“Processes: In 2011 the PJ had almost 60 homicide cases to solve.(...) This year alone the Homicide section of the Polícia Judiciária had to investigate 56 homicide cases carried over from last year. In 2010, the PJ initiated 187 inquests for homicide, of which 131 were verified as such, clarified and concluded. In addition to the homicides there are 92 persons still to be found. That is, over 150 ongoing investigations remain open in two areas alone: homicides and missing persons. (....)” (Note: extract from the article “More than 150 crimes waiting for a solution”, page 18, paper edition of Diário de Notícias)

“Solution of the Maddie Case is in the Process”


3 questions to...

Gonçalo Amaral

former Judiciary Police coordinator of investigations


Do you feel somewhat frustrated because the Madeleine case wasn't concluded?

Not exactly, in the Madeleine McCann case there was always plenty evidence and those are in the process. The solution to the Maddie case is in the process. I never had any doubts whatsoever of what took place that day of May 3, 2007. I didn't have doubts nor did the British police, the parents of the child were the ones who had doubts. There are more ideas of what happened in this process than in Rui Pedro's case.


How to prove the Judiciary Police thesis?

If a reconstruction of the events of that day had been enacted that would be enough. However Kate and Gerry McCann refused to participate. It's a shame.


Did you have many unsolved cases in the 30 years working for the Judiciary Police?

A few, not many. But I've spent most of my time working in drug trafficking cases. In the Azores, I got two unsolved homicide cases, but they were old cases of the 80's.



in: Diário de Notícias, January 2, 2012 - page 18, paper edition


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