Joana case - Leonor and Joao Cipriano know the verdict today

11 November 2005
IOL Diario

Portuguese to English translation

MP calls for 24 years in prison for both defendants for the crimes of murder, desecration of a corpse and concealing the corpse. Defense argues acquittal, arguing that proved the involvement of the mother and uncle of the alleged death of Joanaa

The mother and uncle suspected of having killed a girl aged eight, disappeared in September 2004 in the village of Figueira, in Lagos, know today that a ruling in the Court Algarve town.

The sentencing of the brothers João and Leonor Cipriano accused by the Public Ministry (MP) of murder, desecration and concealment of the corpse of little Joana, is scheduled for 15:00, the Court of Portimão.

The two suspects were tried between 12 and 14 October by a jury - composed of three judges and four jurors - chaired by Judge Alda Casimiro.

The prosecutor, José Carlos Pinheiro, called for the condemnation of the accused for the crimes they are accused of a total of 24 years in prison, including murder (at least 20 years in prison), desecration of corpses (two years) and concealment of a body (two years).

In closing arguments, José Carlos Pinheiro, found that crimes in the indictment have been proven at the trial, despite the absence of the girl's body.

"The forensic evidence, laboratory and produced by hearing from 45 witnesses at the trial, are sufficient to convict the accused," argued the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, lawyers João Grade (Leonor defender) and Sara Rosado (defender João) asked for the acquittal of two siblings, arguing that there was no proof their alleged involvement in the girl's death.

For the barrister, João and Sara Rosado, 'only proven facts were off, "whereas" miserable "the evidence produced by investigators at the Judicial Police.

Leonor Cipriano is being detained since September 25, 2004, the jail of Odemira (Alentejo), while her brother, João Cipriano, was arrested two days later, lying in the jail of Olhão (Algarve).
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Court hears Joana’s horror story

20 October 2005
Portugal’s silent child victims

Algarve Resident

Portugal has been racked by soul-searching as two high profile cases involving child abuse and child murder again figure prominently in the national media, reports The Resident’s Gabriel Hershman

Court hears Joana’s horror story

... The case, which has shocked the nation with its account of incest, murder and desecration, took just three days to be tried. The Public Ministry has pressed for jail terms of 24 years for the defendants, who are charged with qualified murder, as well as desecrating and concealing a body.

Joana disappeared, presumed murdered, in the Algarve village of Figueira, near Portimão. She was last seen buying food from a nearby café on the evening of September 12 last year. Prosecutors charge that she came home to find her mother, 34-year-old Leonor Cipriano, and her uncle, 32-year-old João Cipriano, having sex. Fearful that Joana would relate the incident to her stepfather, they allege that the couple decided to kill her. The prosecution also said that the couple had repeatedly mistreated Joana, recounting that she was little more than a “servant” in her own household.

The court heard a catalogue of horrifying details, including an earlier video taped confession from Joana’s uncle in which he related the circumstances of his niece’s murder. This video testimony is now the subject of an appeal from the defence team who claim it should be excluded because the couple exercised their right to remain silent during the trial.

In the taped confession, João Cipriano said he and his sister hit Joana who then banged her head against a wall before collapsing, unconscious, onto the floor. João Cipriano claimed that he had wanted to call an ambulance but that his sister prevented him, telling him instead to go to Joana’s stepfather and inform him that she had disappeared.

Mother had appealed for daughter’s return

Her mother made subsequent public appeals for her daughter’s safe return, claiming that she had been kidnapped. But authorities began to suspect the couple after villagers noted their allegedly offhand reaction to Joana’s disappearance. Local shopkeeper Nídia Rochato remembered that Leonor neither cried nor seemed unduly concerned. When she commented on this to her, Leonor reportedly replied that she believed that her daughter was still alive.

The absence of a corpse delayed the arraignment process but the Public Ministry were able to indict the couple following statements from neighbours. Investigators also gathered forensic evidence at the house where Joana lived with her mother, stepfather and two brothers.

A total of 45 witnesses, mostly relatives and villagers, testified in court between Wednesday and Friday of last week. Four jurors (one man and three women) and three judges will decide the verdict. The opinions of the jurors – a 20-year-old student, a physiotherapist, a library employee and a waitress – will carry the same weight as the judges.

Joana’s uncle had contempt for human life

Leonor and João Cipriano, who have been held on remand for over a year, stood silently and without emotion as they heard prosecutor José Pinheiro outline his case. He described João Cipriano as a man who “has contempt for human life, psychopathic tendencies and difficulty in controlling impulses”. Pinheiro also castigated Joana’s mother for her “emotional instability, insensitivity and disregard for other people’s needs”. Only when Pinheiro announced that he was pressing for a 24-year jail term for both defendants did Leonor show emotion, sobbing uncontrollably.

Pinheiro explained why his team was pressing for such a long sentence. “The defendants’ guilt is heightened by their cold and calculating behaviour after their child’s death, as well as the devious manoeuvres they adopted to conceal the crime,” he said.

The trial included key testimony from Joana’s stepfather, António Leandro, who related that Leonor had confided to him that she had had a sexual relationship with her brother. He also told the court that during this conversation, which took place a few days after Joana’s disappearance, at judicial police headquarters, Leonor had admitted that she and her brother had killed the little girl.

A key element of the prosecution’s case rests on the fact that the couple dismembered the girl’s corpse. António Leandro, confronted with photographs of tools allegedly used by the couple, said he recognised a saw he had kept at home.

In the video taped confession, João Cipriano admitted that the body of the girl was dismembered and placed in a refrigerated trunk. A doctor involved in the case, Albino Santana dos Santos, conceded that body parts, matching the size of a girl of Joana’s height, could have been stuffed inside the trunk.

Defence team challenges evidence

Despite the evidence, João Grado, Leonor Cipriano’s lawyer, still pressed for her acquittal, describing the evidence as “miserable”. João Cipriano’s lawyer, Sara Rosado, reminded the court that Joana’s body had never been found and dismissed the prosecution’s version of events. “João Cipriano has an intelligence level considerably lower than the average. How is it possible that such a person could deceive everyone for so long?” she asked the court.

But prosecutors disagreed, describing the case as a “veritable horror story that proves that reality really does surpass fiction”. “Nobody can say that they wanted to kill her when they hit. But later when they persisted, they knew that she was going to die. Their guilt is absolute – the victim was a minor, the daughter and niece of the defendants,” they told the court. A verdict in the case is due on November 11.

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Witness says uncle of Joana confessed to killing the child

Witness says uncle of Joana confessed to killing the child
12 October 2005

A witness (Carlos Alberto Silva, Leandro Silva's stepfather) said today in court in the trial of 'Joana case ", that João Cipriano told him that on the night of September 12, 2004 João had sex with his sister (Leonor Cipriano) and that his niece (Joana Cipriano) died that night.

Although initially refusing to establish a direct relationship between the two revelations, Carlos Alberto Silva, Leandro Silva's stepfather, who lived with the girl's mother (Leonor Cipriano), ended up confessing that there seemed to be a link between the two siblings (Leonor and João Cipriano) have been seen by Joana while they were having sex and the subsequent death of the child (Joana Cipriano).

"I realized that he (João Cipriano) may have killed the girl because she saw them (Leonor and João Cipriano) having sex ', he said.

The witness said that (Joana Cipriano) had passed the house two days before her disappearance, she was taken that day by the mother.

That fact was corroborated by the daughter of Carlos Alberto Silva, Carla Monteiro, who visited (Leonor Cipriano) in jail in the early days of custody.

In Prison, Leonor delivered a letter to Carla, in the case, in which she said that night the child (Joana) went out into the street and her uncle, (João Cipriano), ran after her.

Márcio Fernandes, Carla Monteiro's friend, asserted that signs of sexual abuse in another five sons of Leonor had been detected. (The five sons were in their custody since Leonor's arrest)

That case runs its normal course and not in the present case.

The court also heard the owner of the bakery that sold milk and preserved in small Joana night of the tragedy.

Ofélia Zeferino guaranteed that Leandro, accompanied by a mechanic who worked on the same scrap - also originally a defendant in the case - appeared in his shop shortly after the girl have been there.

According to one witness, they were joined immediately by João Cipriano, who made no reference to the disappearance of Joana.

About twenty minutes later, Leonor Cipriano appeared in the bakery and asked for her daughter, coming out and returned shortly before 22 hours.

The first session of the trial in Joana's case lasted about 16 hours and continues until late afternoon.
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