Police used ex to trap accused killer
SYDNEY police suspected within hours that Marcelo Santoro killed his beautiful ex-lover, Cecilia Haddad, and enlisted the help of her former husband to trap him into a confession.
Perth-based Felipe Torres yesterday told Rio's Central Court of Justice he twice phoned Santoro, who had rushed home to Rio shortly after he is accused of killing Ms Haddad, with a "script" provided by NSW detectives, in the days after her body was found.
"I called him with the police listening, and I asked, 'What's the story?' The police gave me the words," Mr Torres said.
In testimony at a pre-trial hearing for Santoro, Mr Torres outlined a wealth of evidence Sydney police had compiled in their case against the engineer, who is accused of stalking and terrifying Ms Haddad, 38, for weeks ahead of her murder in April.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal this evidence will be shared with Rio prosecutors at a meeting next week. Rio prosecutor Fabio Viera dos Santos said two or three NSW officers would be in Brazil to hand over their findings.
NSW Police yesterday confirmed a Mutual Legal Assistance Request (MLAR) has been finalised for NSW Police Force to work with the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro State.
"Detectives from the State Crime Command's Homicide Squad are making final preparations and are expected to travel to Brazil in early November," it stated.
Mr Torres said the evidence included CCTV footage of Santoro, 40, walking barefoot near where they found Ms Haddad's body weighted down in Lane Cove River, and close to where they found what they allege were his abandoned running shoes.
Mr Torres said he was aware of a lot that was not public information because "police had involved me in the investigation" shortly after he flew from Perth to Sydney after she went missing.
He motioned to the large courtroom room where he was testifying and said NSW police have a "room as big as this" with evidence about Cecilia.
"They have done a map with stills of him in different times and places," Mr Torres said.
Santoro had been expected to testify in court for the first time, but his defence lawyers have asked Judge Daniel Werneck Cotta in Rio's Central Court of Justice to delay his appearance until December.
Santoro, 40, allegedly confessed to Rio police that he strangled Ms Haddad, who had ended a relationship with him, because he felt "unwanted", before fleeing to Brazil.
Santoro has been in prison in the South American city since he was arrested by Brazilian police in July over 38-year-old Ms Haddad's death.
Ms Haddad's body was found floating in Sydney's Lane Cove river on April 29.
Ms Haddad's mother, Milu Muller, told the court her daughter had considered hiring a security guard to protect her from Santoro but that it had been too expensive.
She was emotional as she spoke about her last phone call with Ms Haddad, who was helping her with taxes from Sydney. It was about 7pm Friday night Brazil time, so Saturday morning in Australia.
"It was late and some receipts were up in the second floor of my house and I was tired, so I said I would call back the next day to finish them," Mrs Muller said.
"As we were speaking I heard a noise as if someone was trying to knock the door down, and I said to her, 'What's going on?' and I heard Marcelo's voice saying: 'Open the door, I want to speak to you', and she said, 'I don't want to open the door, go away.'"
Mrs Muller said Santoro refused to leave.
"Cecilia said: 'I will call the police', she said it twice, 'and stop walking around the corridor, I can hear your footsteps'," Mrs Muller said.
"I said: 'What horror! What is this creature doing there, has he gone away?'
"She said he had gone away and then we talked about a security guard but she said that would cost her $100 an hour and it was too much.
"She said she was going to go out to have lunch with a friend," Mrs Muller said, crying softly in the court.
"I asked her to call me as soon she met her friend and she put the phone down suddenly, saying she had to get dressed and go.
"I have never again spoken to her. It's been 186 days."
Earlier, Rita Maciel, a former friend and colleague of Ms Haddad's from Perth, told the hearing she regretted not being to convince Haddad not to return to Sydney just days before her murder.
Ms Maciel, 37, was emotional, fighting back tears, as she said Santoro had "stalked" her friend, and described her grief at hearing of Ms Haddad's death.
"She was living in panic, with a lot of fear," Ms Maciel said in Portuguese over video link from Perth.
"She was afraid to leave her home, she was afraid to go to work, but she was a strong person and dedicated so she did go to work. She was afraid to leave her house in her car. He made her life a psychological panic with his abuse.
"He would follow her, he changed his car and followed her car. He was threatening her, persecuting her to see what she was doing."
During Ms Haddad's last visit to Perth to see her dog, who still lived there with her ex-husband Felipe Torres, Ms Maciel said she had begged her friend to stay with her until Santoro was scheduled to leave the following week.
"She couldn't wait for him to leave, she had a good heart and even tried to help him," Ms Maciel said, crying.
"He said he had brought a ticket for Tuesday.
"Five days before her body was found floating in the river she was in my house, saying she couldn't wait for the day that he would go from her, on Tuesday.
"I told her not to go back to Sydney, that my husband and daughter would help her."
Describing Santoro as "this monster who did nothing but punish her and finish the life of my friend", Ms Maciel told the court "he didn't want her to be happy".
Ms Maciel described in harrowing detail how she learned of her friend's death.
"We would speak every day, and when some hours went by and I didn't hear from her, I was worried," she said.
"I was in my house waiting for her message or her phonecall, and I knew the fear that she felt. When I called her and she didn't pick up the phone I asked my husband: 'what should I do?'.
"He said to wait 24 hours and then to call the police. I spent the whole 24 hours shaking with fear, and then I called the police and gave them her details, and while I was on the phone to the police, Felipe called me and said: 'where's Cecilia?'
"In that moment I began to cry and I said: 'I don't know, I am desperate'.
"And Felipe said Poca (the nickname given to Santoro) just called me from Rio de Janeiro asking if I knew where Cecilia was. I knew in that moment that he had killed her, because he was supposed to be on a plane on the Tuesday (May 1 and the conversation was on April 30).
"He was pretending to be worried, and then that night I saw on the evening news that a body bad been found floating in the river and I was certain that it was my friend's.
"I never thought for a moment that it could be anyone else."
The defence countered with questions trying to implicate Ms Haddad's estranged husband, Mr Torres.
But Ms Maciel said they retained a good friendship and that Mr Torres was a "completely tranquil person" who wished his former partner no harm.
Ms Maciel said Ms Haddad's "dream" was to be a mother to children, and that this had been what caused her breakup with Mr Torres, who did not wish to be a father.
Police allege Haddad was killed after enduring "a campaign of psychological terror" from her former lover, who then rolled her body in a mattress cover and weighed it down with her own scuba diving weights.
Rio police allege Santoro returned to his home country after murdering Ms Haddad because he believed that Brazil's constitution would forbid the extradition of citizens, and therefore Australian police could not catch him.
However, Brazil authorities plan to try him for the crime in Rio, with assistance from NSW homicide detectives. This is possible because Ms Haddad is a dual Australian and Brazilian citizen.
At a court appearance in September, Rio's homicide squad chief Dr Fabio Cardoso, criticised NSW police for what he described as a lack of co-operation in the joint prosecution of Santoro. He said at that time the Australian police had only supplied an initial report.
Police allege Santoro, a Rio-born engineer "committed the crime in a foreign country and came looking for refuge and impunity in Brazil, knowing that he could not be extradited, and so would avoid the actions of Australian justice," according to the arrest warrant issued in July.