The three suspects, aged 40 to 47, started their trial last week at Faro’s courthouse after the case was reopened last summer, but chose to remain in silence throughout.
The case dates back to 2 February 1998 when a man was shot twice in the head on his way home from work, in Faro. After he was killed he was abandoned near the Spanish border.
PJ chief inspector João Garcia, who gave witness statements in court last week, said that two of the suspects, identified as Carlos Castanheira and Fernando Louro had already confessed their involvement in the crime during separate reconstructions of the shooting that were carried out last year.
According to the inspector, the case was reopened after one of his colleagues had a chance conversation with a friend who turned out to be one of the suspects’ ex-girlfriends.
Through phone tapping the police managed to identify Louro, who until then had been unknown to the investigation, but whose genetic profile matched traces left on a cigarette end found in the victim’s car.
According to the witness inspector, who has been investigating the case for 14 years, Castanheira (who is childhood friends with the third suspect, Carlos Lopa) and Louro intercepted the victim, Jorge Nascimento, on his way home from work between Loulé and Faro after simulating a car crash to force him to leave the vehicle.
From there the pair drove Nascimento in his car to São Brás de Alportel, where he was allegedly murdered and his body taken to a deserted spot near the Spanish border, where it was abandoned.
Castenheira and Louro claim that the third suspect, Lopa, was waiting for them in São Brás and it was he who shot and murdered the victim.
During that period the two claim they returned to Faro where they withdrew money with Jorge Nascimento’s bank card, near his home close to the Hospital roundabout.
The victim’s car was later found in Spain, 100 kilometres from the border, and more money was withdrawn in that country with the victim’s card.
Following the reconstructions of the murder Inspector Garcia said that, to him, it was “perfectly clear” that “everything resulted from intentions projected by Carlos Lopa, a former boyfriend of the victim’s then girlfriend.
At the time of the murder everything pointed to theft being the motive for the killing. Fourteen years ago the authorities suspected the assailants were drug addicts who lived near the victim.
Two men were caught on CCTV withdrawing cash from an ATM machine in Spain but the images were not clear enough to make an identification.
The trial continues with hearings on 13 and 27 April.