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Brazil24 September 2002

Tim Lopes murder: "Crazy Elias" arrested

See the portuguese version of the press release
Elias Pereira, also known as "Elias Maluco" ("Crazy Elias"), the main suspect in the journalist’s killing, was arrested on 20 September in a house in the Complexo do Alemao slum area, west of Rio de Janeiro, near where Lopes was murdered. He was the last of the drug gang accused of the murder to be picked up and is considered the gang’s leader. It is thought he personally killed Lopes with a sword. The authorities say he has been protected by corrupt police. At his first court appearance after his arrest, he denied having killed Lopes.

Renato Souza Lopes ("Ratinho"), a member of the "Crazy Elias" drug gang suspected of murdering journalist Tim Lopes, was arrested on 26 August in a house in the northern Rio de Janeiro slum of Complexo do Alemao. Police said it was he who had spotted the journalist investigating drug trafficking in Vila del Cruzeiro. Souza Lopes, who was also being sought for possessing weapons, denied any involvement in the murder. Police nearly captured "Crazy Elias" himself, the main suspect in the killing, on 23 August but he managed to get away a few minutes before police arrived, apparently warned by two policemen. An internal enquiry is being made. Of the eight other suspects in the murder, six have been arrested and two are dead. Four other members of the gang have been killed in shoot-outs with police.

16.08.2002 - A third member of the gang that killed journalist Tim Lopes shot dead

Alleged drug dealer Flávio Reginaldo dos Santos, alias "Buda", one of the suspects in the Tim Lopes murder who was still at large, was shot dead by police in the early hours of 15 August in Vila del Cruzeiro, a Rio de Janeiro shantytown. Police said he was hit by bullets while trying to escape the police officers who were attempting to arrest him. Dos Santos was reportedly a member of the gang led by "Crazy" Elias, the prime suspect in the Lopes killing. Dos Santos was not believed to have participated directly in the killing of Lopes. He was wanted for having set fire to a drugs squad vehicle with four police officers inside in September 2001.

14.08.2002 - Growing concern about Tim Lopes investigation after death of two suspects

image 73 x 105 (JPEG) Reporters Without Borders today voiced its utmost concern about recent developments in the investigation into the murder of TV journalist Tim Lopes, in particular, the death in the space of a week of two suspects who had been wanted for their presumed participation, and reports of police corruption.

In a letter to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the death of the two suspects, especially Mauricio de Lima Mathias, who was reportedly killed in an exchange of shots with police during an attempt to detain him.

Ménard said the organisation was also "extremely concerned" about reports that the journalist’s killers had corrupted police officers. "It would be scandalous if elements in the police help to keep this crime unpunished", the letter said, stressing that "this odious crime has outraged Brazilian society and the international community".

The organisation asked to be kept informed of the results of the enquiry into the presumed corruption of police officials by Elias Pereiora, the head of the gang that executed Lopes. Finally, it also insisted that measures be taken to guarantee the safety of the five suspects currently held in this case and that of the witnesses.

One of Lopes’ presumed killers, André da Cruz Barbosa, alias "André Capeta" (André the Devil), was killed by a bullet in the head on 13 August. The police say he probably killed himself, but do not rule out the possibility that he was gunned down by a rival gang or members of his own gang, However, according to Aldney Zacharias Peixoto, a representative of the public prosecutor’s office, he could have been seen as someone who knew too much and may therefore have been executed by corrupt police habitually paid by the gang to ensure its protection.

The other suspect, Mauricio de Lima Mathias, was shot dead five days earlier, on 8 August, when police tried to arrest him in the Vigario Geral shantytown (north of Rio) where he was hiding. He had been implicated in the journalist’s death by other suspects, and was one of four persons wanted by the police in the case.

According to Agence France-Presse, an anonymous caller recently told the police that Elias Pereira, alias "Elias Maluco" (Crazy Elias), the chief of the band of drug dealers which executed the journalist, had paid 600,000 Reals (200,000 Euros) to corrupt police for them to leave him alone. This is denied by Francisco Bras, commander of the military police. But Sergio Aguiar, secretary for public security in Rio de Janeiro, has said that "it is very possible that Crazy Elias enjoys the protection of certain corrupt police". Five officials are currently being investigated.

Two suspects are still wanted in the Lopes murder investigation: Crazy Elias and Renato Souza Lopes, alias "Ratinho" (Little Rat). According to the daily O Globo, on 9 August a judge ordered that the five suspects already detained in this case be placed in preventive custody. They are Elizeu Felicio de Souza, alias "o Zeu", Angelo Ferreira da Silva ("o Primo"), Reinaldo Amaral de Jesos ("Kadê"), Fernando Sátyro da Silva ("o Frei") and Claudino dos Santos Coelho ("Xuxa"). This was done at the request of the two investigating magistrates in charge of the case, Vivian Tavares Henriques and Patrícia Mothé Glioche, to ensure they would not be released. The five face charges of theft, drug trafficking, homicide and "concealment of a body".

A TV Globo journalist, Lopes was killed on the night of 2-3 June while gathering information on the use of child prostitutes by drug dealers in the Vila del Cruzeiro shantytown on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Dealers recognized him as he was shooting footage with a micro-camera. According to two if the detained suspects, he was tortured and then finished off with a machete by the local drug baron, Crazy Elias. His body was then burned. Charred human remains found on 5 July in a clandestine cemetery in the Grota shantytown have been formally identified as those of Lopes.

See previous press release about Tim Lopes case

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