25 September 2004. Leonor Cipriano confessed before the judge of instruction of the Court of Portimão, Ana Soares, after her arrest for the murder of her daughter Joana. Up until that night and her appearance before the magistrate she was interrogated for several days but allowed home each evening. A police guard maintained a watching brief over her home each night.
After being committed to custody and the appointment of a new lawyer she changed her stance, pled not guilty and refused to cooperate with the investigation. She refused to testify during her trial.
The only reason Leonor confessed was because just for a moment, she regretted what she had done.Full report on the initial confessions by Leonor and João Cipriano.
Some background facts in the case...The arrest and trial of Leanor and João Cipriano.
- Joana disappeared on the night of 12 September 2004.
- Leonor Cipriano was arrested and detained from 25 September 2004 while her brother, João Cipriano, was arrested two days later.
- The trial was due to commence on Wednesday 12 October 2005 but even before the reading of the indictment there was confusion over which lawyer had the legal authority to represent Leonor. In the end lawyer João Grado was tasked with the defence with Lisbon lawyers João Vaz and Oliveira Cruz standing down.
- The trial was heard by a three judge panel headed by Alda Casimiro, seconded by Manuel Rui Banaco and Advinco Sequeira and included four jurors (three women and one man) chosen from the electoral roll in Portimão. The final decision was up to the four jurors chosen from the electoral roll, namely, Diamene Silva (20) student, Marica Cunha (27) librarian technician, Marta Pereira (22) physiotherapist and Fernando Gonçalves (48) waiter.
- Leonor and her brother, João Cipriano, uncle of the eight-year-old girl, were accused of murder, desecration of a corpse and concealment.
- The defendants refused to speak after the reading of the indictment having been advised of the advantages by their respective lawyers “entrar mudo e sair calado”.
- Investigations conducted by the Judicial Police of Faro coordinated by Gonçalo Amaral did not reach any clear proof against Leonor and João Cipriano - just a theory, a story that the prosecutor José Pinheiro struggled to defend in court.
- The trial heard how João Cipriano sent police to dozens of places where the dismembered body of Joan supposedly lay, including wastelands, waterways, sewers drains, dumps and piggeries.
- The trial heard testimony from 45 prosecution witnesses: neighbours, relatives, PJ inspectors involved in the investigation, forensic experts.
- In the first session of the trial, Joana's stepfather, António Leandro, admitted that João Cipriano confessed that he and Leonor would answer for the crime of murder, desecration and hiding the corpse of little Joana. "He told me that the girl had seen them having sex and that they had killed the girl". However, Leandro received a totally different version from Leonor when he visited her in prison. Leonor told him that the corpse of Joana was in an old house, where she had been "taken to the back", but he found nothing.
- The issue of Joana's maltreatment was raised several times but was not proven by any witness. A psychologist from the Protection of Minors, Ana Sofia Paias, said she detected " poverty ", but not abuse.
- Neighbours and acquaintances of Leonor and brother João were called by the prosecution to assess the personality of the accused. The first witnesses, spoke of the past of Leonor Cipriano, questioned her performance as a mother of six children by five different relationships.
- A military GNR, Fernando Fernandes Ferreira, who was stationed in Portimao when the acts were committed, gave evidence to the Court via video - conferencing system.
- In about six hours of sitting, twenty witnesses were heard in the Court of Portimão - which attested to the rapidity with which the trial proceeded.
- The trial heard that marks of blood were found both inside and outside the house by someone of Joana's height. These traces of blood could not be forensically attributed to the girl - because they were contaminated by oil and bleach which had been used to clean the house after the crime.
- Trace of blood both animal and human were found in the family freezer. The prosecution claimed that the defendants hid the body there before disposing of it.
- Joana's stepfather, Leandro Silva, confirmed to the court that a saw normally kept at the Cipriano home had disappeared after the crime.
- A veterinarian, Cristina Simões, was called to testify in court. When questioned by prosecutor José Pinheiro Franco she said five or six pigs would be able to eat a body like Joana in 10 or 12 hours.
- On the last day of the trial the voice of João Cipriano was heard in court by virtue of a video recording made by the Judicial Police during investigations. In brutal detail he confessed to killing Joana and of disposing of her body. The defence objected claiming that João's words had no value since the defendants chose not to testify at trial. The judge overruled the objection.
- Joana's stepfather, Leandro, also made a brief statement, acknowledging that a hacksaw which he used for manual labour had disappeared from the family home.
- At the conclusion of the evidence the prosecutor appealed to the pair, "If you have any little humanity left, tell us where the body is?"
- Prosecuting attorney, José Pinheiro, during closing arguments in the case asked for a sentence of 24 years for both defendants. Leonor was seen to be visibly distressed at this.
- The trial lasted for 20 hours in total spread over three days. On 11 November 2005, the verdicts were announced at Portimão Court with Leonor and João Cipriano being convicted of murder, desecration of a corpse and concealment.
- There were disagreements between prosecutors and the Judge of Instruction. The MP wanted a sentence of between 12-25 years while Judge Ana Soares was of the view that there were only indications of the practice by the defendants and suggested a sentence of between 16 months to six years and eight months was more appropriate.
- In the end, Leonor was sentenced to 20 yrs and 4 months while João was sentenced to 19 yrs and 2 months. Leonor was given a longer sentence since she was the mother of the child.