Portuguese father of tug-of-love Irish schoolgirl to be charged with kidnap
Published 26 February 2015
The Portuguese father of Irish schoolgirl Ellie Silva is due to be tried next month for her kidnap. Filipe Silva, 38, has been ordered to appear at a court in the Algarve capital Faro on March 17. He faces up to ten years in jail if convicted.
Ellie’s mother Candice Gannon says her daughter loves being in Ireland with her twin siblings.
Ellie’s mother Candice Gannon, 30, and stepfather Philip Gannon, 47, have applied to give evidence from Dublin by video-conference.
Confirmation of the court date comes more than two years after Ellie, ten, was reunited with her mother at an Algarve children’s home after nearly seven months apart.
Mr Silva, 38, disappeared with his daughter in July 2012 during a two-week holiday and flouted a court order to return her.
The schoolgirl started a new life in Ireland last May with her mother and stepfather at their home in Ballsbridge, Dublin, after a family court judge in Portugal allowed her to leave the country.
Mrs Gannon said last night: ‘Life is very good for us in Ireland. Ellie could not be happier. She loves her new school, is inseparable from [her sister] Olivia and she is a huge help with the twins [her brothers] whom she adores.
‘It’s so nice we can all finally enjoy a normal life in Ireland. Things could definitely have turned out a lot worse for us.
‘Thank God we got Ellie out of Portugal when we did.’
She added: ‘It took the Faro courts five months to issue an arrest warrant, a full year to formally accuse him of a crime and another 20 months to proceed to trial.
‘It’s a miracle we got Ellie out of Portugal when we did.
‘Given everything that happened during and after the time Ellie was kidnapped, I’ve learned not to expect too much justice from the Faro courts.’
Mr Silva, who had a holiday fling with Mrs Gannon in 2004, has consistently denied any wrongdoing and is expected to plead innocent at the start of next month’s trial.
Ellie, who was born in Portugal, is due to give evidence, as is her mother and stepfather.
A police report submitted to the trial court – and expected to be outlined during the hearing – reveals the lengths that Mr Silva went to keep Ellie’s mother from seeing her.
He is accused in the report of meticulously planning to stay one step ahead of the law.
It is alleged he abandoned the Algarve with his daughter, ended contact with his closest family and friends, and even refrained from using his normal mobile or bank cards and accounts.
Police also highlighted how they discovered his daughter only received part-time schooling at an educational centre on the outskirts of Porto, northern Portugal.
Officers concluded that he had decided against having her schooled at home after discovering he would have to seek permission from the local education authority and give details of the address where Ellie was living.
The report had recommended that Mr Silva’s mother Ana Maria should be accused of kidnap but state prosecutors decided against charges.
Irish schoolgirl kidnapped:Ellie, pictured here with her stepfather Philip Gannon who flew to Portugal to collect her.
Despite being charged with kidnap, Mr Silva was allowed to apply for custody of his daughter.
Mr Silva was told last April that his application had failed and his daughter would be returning to Ireland.
Ellie had to remain in Portugal until the decision was announced.
Ellie was separated from her mother, stepfather and sister Olivia, now four, after they returned to Ireland when Mrs Gannon became pregnant with twins and was told they had a potentially life threatening condition.
Eventually the child flew home to a family reunion last May after Mr Gannon picked her up at Funchal Airport on the island of Madeira.www.evoke.ie/news/irish-schoolgirl-kidnapped-by-father/