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Brazil12 August 2002

Tim Lopes Murder : one suspect killed; five others imprisoned awaiting trial

On 8 August Mauricio de Lima Mathias, one of the presumed murderers of journalist Tim Lopés, was shot dead as police attempted to arrest him in the shantytown of Vigario Geral (north of Rio), where he had been in hiding. He was accused of playing a role in the journalist’s murder by other suspects, and was one of four people sought by the police. According to the daily O Globo, the following day a judge placed in preventive detention five other suspects arrested in relation to the case. They are : Elizeu Felício de Souza, also known as "o Zeu"; Angelo Ferreira da Silva ("o Primo"); Reinaldo Amaral de Jesús ("Kadê" or "Cabê"); Fernando Sátyro da Silva ("o Frei") and Claudino dos Santos Coelho ("Xuxa"). The decision was made at the request of the two investigating judges in charge of the case, Vivian Tavares Henriques and Patrícia Mothé Glioche, to ensure that the men are not freed. The five men are being prosecuted for ’theft’, ’drug smuggling’, ’homicide’ and "hiding of a corpse". Three other suspects are still being pursued.

08.07.2002 - Murder of Tim Lopes confirmed by DNA test

image 180 x 135 (JPEG) The remains of journalist Tim Lopes (photo) were buried on 7 July at the Jardim da Saudade cemetery, in western Rio of Janeiro, two days after police confirmed after DNA tests by a Rio Federal University laboratory that bones found in a secret burial ground in the Grota slum area of the city were his.

Rio civil police chief Zaqueo Teixeira said part of the journalist’s spine had been identified out of the 41 bone fragments handed to the laboratory by comparing its DNA with that of his mother and son. He said the search for those who murdered him, especially Elias Pereira da Silva, who is thought to have ordered his killing, would be stepped up.

image 189 x 300 (JPEG) The secret burial ground, found by police after weeks of searching, in the Vila Cruzeiro district, where Lopes was investigating drug trafficking and child prostitution with a hidden camera, contained the bones of other suspected victims of drug-lords. The journalist’s personal belongings - his mini-camera, watch and a gold chain - were found in the same place and identified by his family and the TV station he worked for.

Local press reports said eight people had been involved in killing Lopes. Four of them have been arrested , including Angelo Ferreira da Silva and Elizeu Felício de Souza, who described how Lópes had been "tried" by Pereira da Silva before being tortured, executed and his body burned. The other four involved - Pereira da Silva himself, André da Cruz Barbosa, Maurício de Lima Bastos and Renato Souza Lopes - are still being sought.

06.10.02 - Murder of missing TV Globo journalist confirmed

Rio de Janeiro state governor Benedita da Silva confirmed on 9 June the death of Tim Lopes, of TV Globo, who disappeared on the night of 2-3 June while working on a story about drug dealing in the Rio slum of Vila del Cruzeiro. She told the cable news station GloboNews that police would investigate the killing.

She spoke after the arrest a few hours earlier of two petty criminals in the slum who said Lopes has been killed with a sword by a local drug lord, Elias Pereira da Silva, better known "Elias Maluco." Civil police chief Zaqueu Teixeira said Lopes’ body was later burned and police announced on 5 June they had found the remains.

image 400 x 265 (JPEG)

The daily Jornal do Brasil said Lopes had received death threats after a programme about drug dealers in the slum was broadcast last year. Another paper, the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo, said the programme’s co-producer, Cristina Guimarães, had also had death threats last September and had fled the state.

2002.06.04 - Journalist investigating drug dealers’ practices missing

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its concern following the disappearance of Tim Lopes, a TV Globo reporter, who was carrying out investigations in one of the "favela" on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Police have found human remains, which could be those of the journalist, and these are currently being analysed. "All possible light must be shed on the circumstances surrounding this disappearance," states Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders. The organisation has written to Sérgio Falante, the police officer in charge of the affair at the Vila de Penha police station, asking to be kept informed of the results of the inquiry.

According to Reporters Without Borders’ information, Tim Lopes, who works for TV Globo, disappeared during the night of 2/3 June while gathering information for a report on the practices of drug dealers in Vila del Cruzeiro, a "favela" in Vila de Penha (to the north of Rio de Janeiro). According to the Brazilian news agency Estado, police found charred human remains in a cellar in Vila del Cruzeiro. The remains, which could be those of the journalist, were immediately sent for DNA testing. The results should be known in a week.

Tim Lopes went to Vila do Cruzeiro to investigate a complaint made by people living in Vila de Penha received by TV Globo. It was claimed that drug dealers were organising parties at which they recruited new clients and sexually abused minors. Vila de Cruzeiro is one of the "favela" in the Complexe do Alemao, a shantytown on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro controlled by the drug dealers.

In August 2001, Tim Lopes had made a series of three reports for television, entitled "The drugs fair", for which he was awarded the Esso Especial Prize for Television Journalism. Filmed with a hidden camera, the reports showed young people offering drugs to passers-by in full daylight in one of the "favela" in the Complexe do Alemao. The military police stepped up its presence in the area after the reports were broadcast on TV Globo.

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