Jury clears Brazil police of 1996 murder of PC Farias

Paulo Cesar Farias (Archive) Paulo Cesar Farias was considered the right-hand man of former President Collor de Mello

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Four former policemen who stood accused of failing to prevent the murder of Brazilian businessman Paulo Cesar Farias and his girlfriend have been cleared of the charges.

The four officers worked as Mr Farias's bodyguards at the time of his killing.

The couple were found shot dead in their room on 23 June 1996 in Alagoas state, in north-eastern Brazil.

The death of Mr Farias and his partner, Suzana Marcolino, is considered one of Brazil's most famous murder mysteries.

'Crime of passion'

Mr Farias, 50, was the treasurer for the political campaign of then-President Fernando Collor de Melo.

He was suspected of being a key figure in the corruption scheme which forced Mr Collor to resign in 1992.

When he was found shot dead in his bed next to Suzana Marcolino, 28, who had also been killed by a bullet, most people assumed Mr Farias had been silenced.

But the forensic report at the time concluded Mr Farias had been shot by Ms Marcolino in a crime of passion.

The report said Ms Marcolino had pulled the trigger and then killed herself.

But with speculation continuing to run rife, the bodies were exhumed in 1999.

Absolved

Forensic experts said they could not rule out that Ms Marcolino had committed suicide, but neither could they rule out murder, with some evidence pointing to the latter.

The role of the four bodyguards has also been the subject of much speculation.

Two of the four men were on guard the night of the shooting, and prosecutors had argued they had turned a blind eye to the crime.

But in a four-to-three ruling the jury decided to absolve all four of them.

"The jurors understand that the accused Adeildo [Costa dos Santos] and Jose Geraldo had the obligation of protecting their [PC Farias's and Suzana Marcolino's] lives, but the jurors decided to show clemency and absolve them," Judge Mauricio Breda explained.

Judge Breda said the decision to grant clemency was rare, but within the remit of the jurors.

The jurors also ruled that the death of the couple had been a double homicide, adding new fuel to what local media call "Brazil's most famous murder mystery".

The judge said the prosecution had five days to appeal against the ruling.

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