Brazil claims Australian police were no-shows in murder case
MARCELO Santoro, the man accused of killing Brazilian businesswoman Cecilia Haddad, is in custody after being captured by police in Rio de Janeiro.
Ms Haddad's body was found floating in the Lane Cove River in Sydney's north in late April.
Detectives found the 40-year-old Santoro hiding at his sister's apartment in the Botafogo district of the South American city, according to reports.
The address is less than three kilometres from the beachside residence of Santoro's parents, who yesterday told officers acting on an arrest warrant that they didn't know his whereabouts.
Officers from Rio de Janeiro's 18th civil police station swooped on the apartment at 3.30pm local time (4.30am AEST) after receiving information that Santoro had been hiding there since Friday evening.
He gave himself up without resistance and reportedly told officers at the moment of his arrest: "I've ended my life".
Santoro was later questioned by homicide police chief Dr Fabio Cardoso, who has been leading the murder investigation. According to reports, he insisted to lawyers present during the questioning that he is innocent.
Santoro was transferred to the city's homicide police station in the Barra da Tijuca district of Rio, where he arrived at around 6pm.
As he was led handcuffed into the police station, he kept his head down and refused to answer questions from awaiting journalists.
He was accompanied by a lawyer, believed to be his uncle, who is representing him.
Santoro will be transferred tomorrow to Rio's Benfica prison, a notorious jail which holds some of Brazil's most dangerous criminals, where he will await the habeas corpus request lodged by his lawyers.
Santoro had been considered a fugitive of justice since going into hiding after a Rio de Janeiro judge accepted a charge of murder against him and issued a warrant for his arrest on Thursday night.
On Saturday, police searched Santoro's parents' apartment on Copacabana beach as well as other addresses belonging to his relatives but were unable to locate him.
Rio's homicide division began their own investigation into Ms Haddad's death after being approached by members of her family days after her body was found in Sydney's Lane Cove river on April 29.
Police in Rio de Janeiro made a formal request for cooperation and information-sharing from their Australian counterparts soon after, but claim they have still not received a response or any communication from authorities here.
Instead, they built their case using information available to them, including interviews with family members, messages sent by Santoro to Ms Haddad's parents and brother, and expert analysis of documents including the post-mortem reported which showed that she was strangled to death.
'NO RESPONSE' FROM AUSSIE POLICE
Speaking to News Corp Australia, police chief Dr Cardoso said he didn't know why Australian police still hadn't responded to their request for cooperation on the case.
He said: "As soon as we heard that a Brazilian had been murdered, and another Brazilian was a suspect, we looked at whether Brazilian penal law could be applied, and we concluded that it could.
"We made a formal request through Interpol for information about the progress of the investigation, but didn't receive any reply from the Australian police. We made another request through diplomatic channels and didn't receive a reply. We still haven't received any communication from Australia about the case."
Revealing new information about the case, he said Santoro had "bombarded" Ms Haddad's family with "disturbing" messages after she ended their one-year relationship.
He said: "He didn't accept it. He started to threaten to kill himself if she ended their relationship. He would send her messages saying that he was going to commit suicide.
"Cecilia told her family everything. His behaviour worried them because he clearly had psychological problems. They were concerned about what he might do."
He said: "He started bombarding her family with abusive messages, criticising Cecilia, saying she was a bad person, that she was selfish, making up lies about her.
"This caused a lot of embarrassment to Cecilia and her family.
"The content of the messages is disturbing, consistent with someone who is not in control of himself and who cannot accept that a relationship has ended."
Dr Cardoso said that another attempt will be made to contact Australian police this week.
He said: "Santoro won't be extradited because Brazil's constitution doesn't allow it. But he can be tried here, even though the crime was committed abroad.
"The police investigating the murder have important information, witness statements, forensic and physical evidence, that will help us build up a case and bring a successful prosecution.
"That is why we are requesting the transfer of the case to Brazil. I don't know what the police in Australia have not yet made contact with us or replied to our request for cooperation. We have already made two requests and this week we will try again."
With murder cases often taking years to come to court in Brazil, Santoro could be held for up to five years before his case is heard.
If found guilty of the charge of feminicide, Santoro could be sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in jail.