An Australian woman’s death in Portugal was ruled a suicide despite forensic evidence showing she suffered repeated blows from an axe, according to reports.
Former model and fashion executive Jacinta Rees was found dead at her cottage in the Algarve, in southern Portugal, in April 2008.
A coronial examination into the Melbourne woman’s death found she died of axe wounds and had marks on her arms and legs indicating she had tried to defend herself, the Daily Telegraph reports.
But despite the evidence her family says the death was ruled a suicide in the European nation and the Australian government has failed to contest the decision.
“Jacinta’s skull had been caved in with an axe. She clearly had defensive wounds also,” Jacinta’s sister-in-law Louise told News Ltd.
“She suffered a horrendous death and she most certainly fought for her life.
“The GNR (Portugese national police) determined this was a suicide and our embassy concurred.”
Jacinta’s brother, Cameron, said that consular officials had abandoned the family after they botched their initial dealings with the Portuguese.
“All we want is to know the truth about what happened to her. She was our sister and our parents’ child â€” she deserves better than this,” Cameron said.
Jacinta was found dead in the courtyard of her home at Sao Bras de Alportel, near the city of Faro.
Local police initially said her death was an accident, and then said it was suicide, despite an autopsy indiciating it was a murder, according to News Ltd.
A separate Victorian Coroners’ report referred the case to the Victorian Police Department’s homicide squad.
“This injury pattern with trauma to both head and the left arm raises serious concerns. Further investigations are being undertaken via the Victorian Police Department’s homicide squad,” read. There are questionmarks regarding the role of the Dutch houseowner.
The Portuguese police have closed their investigation.
Crime in the Algarve
It has been an uncomfortable end to the week for me in the Algarve. One of the ongoing topics here is the problem of crime. There is a basic misconception that Portugal is a quiet, bumbling and honest country where you can leave your door unlocked for weeks on end. On the other hand, there is another school of thought which sees the Algarve as being a place where it really is unsafe to walk about after dark, and where you are at risk of burglaries, some of which are quite violent.
The truth is of course, as usual, somewhere in-between. I have on several occasions gone off for the weekend and left the french windows wide open, and they face my front gate. There is no evidence that anyone came in, or took anything. Mind you, I have done exactly the same in London. In fact, I left my car keys in the door of my car in Hayes for a whole week once, and no-one nicked the car, but on the other hand I have had five cars stolen from private parking areas in London over a twenty year period.
There is this contradictory situation in the Algarve. On the one hand there is a large contingent of charming old world people who would not dream of entering your home, and would indeed protect it for you if you are away. And then there are those who creep about in the night, and nick anything that isn't nailed down.
One of our Portuguese friends has had a lot of his antiques stolen. It turned out that his next door neighbour was waiting for him to go out and then breaking in and stealing things.
On the other hand, an alarming number of people in the Loule area have been broken into time and time again, and treated quite brutally.
One thing is clear, and that is, there is a mentality that is apparent in rather a large proportion of the population that if they want something they will just take it. One neighbour has a lemon tree in her front garden. People pick the lemons without so much as a by-your-leave, but there are those who will come by with a sack and strip the tree.
Unfortunately I have now joined the list of those who've been targeted. Locals come across the fields and steal from my garden and the garden shed. It has now got to the stage where I cant leave anything about the place. I have to lock up the ladders, hide the wheelbarrow, and make sure all the shed doors are secure. It isn't a nice feeling. Where I used to leave hats and shoes around the place, only to accidentally find them sitting on a wall six months later, I now suspect they wouldn't last more than six days. It's all rather depressing. It's not nice to feel unsafe in one's own home. And I now have to think seriously about security fences and surveillance systems.
The stupid thing is I know exactly who is stealing from me. After all, I have caught them at it, so naturally I made the journey down to the local police station to make a denunciation. That in itself was a traumatic experience. I made sure I knew crucial terms in Portuguese, and even slipped a dictionary into my pocket. I was first in the queue, in fact I seemed to be the only one denouncing anyone that morning. And I was there nearly two and a half hours while my details were taken and put on a two page form. The computer system is totally up the creek, and every time the policeman hit a carriage return the computer accessed the police service database which ran at a snail's pace. Whoever set up the system was a twit who didn't understand how to do it properly. I could have improved their system given a couple of hours work on the program, yet I am not a programmer. Obviously there is no-one capable of even working out what's wrong, let along putting it right, in the establishment.
The result of this is that I nearly fell asleep in the interview room while we waited for the computer to access the database after each carriage return. Two and a half hours later the result was a two page document with perhaps a total of 500 words in it. Productivity in the police force is clearly low, low, low. I was told that the system was sometimes even slower.
Meanwhile in the next office there were three officers who spent the entire two and a half hours chatting and watching t.v. on a large screen hung from the ceiling.
It seems to me that the police force could be halved and no-one would notice. I'm not sure what it is that they are supposed to do apart from hassling motorists. They certainly aren't out on the streets. We have saturday and sunday markets, but rarely is there a police presence. If you call them they take hours to arrive. Presumably one has to wait until they finish watching their favourite program. And why is it that the police force is not funded by the insurance companies? After all, it seems that all they do is fill in forms, and give you a crime number. The first question I was asked was, "Are you making an insurance claim?"
And that's the problem. What happens now I have made a denunciation? They should get down to my neighbour's place and start hassling them. Fat chance! They will just sit in the ante-room and watch t.v. while the thieves plan their next raid. Ultimately, that's a big problem here. There is effectively no deterrent. You need to buy a gun. In that sense it's the wild west. If I blew someone's knee off they wouldn't be stealing from me again, and I could easily explain it away as an accident. The trouble is I would then be waiting for a return attack from my victim. So we have crime followed by deterrence followed by revenge. So, what's the answer?