Cecilia‘s jilted lover’s excuse for leaving Australia
JILITED mining engineer Marcelo Santoro has spoken in a Brazilian court for the first time to defend himself on charges he murdered Sydney woman Cecilia Haddad.
In a brief appearance, the 40-year-old took only questions from his defence team, who said they had instructed him to "remain calm" during his evidence.
Santoro is accused of killing Ms Haddad, 38, in Sydney last April after she ended their relationship.
Rio's Court of Justice has previously heard that he had stalked and terrified the mining executive for weeks ahead of her alleged murder, however Santoro today sought to show he was still planning a future with Ms Haddad.
Handcuffed and wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and black runners, Santoro today claimed he had planned a family holiday with Ms Haddad, his parents and children, in July, and that he was trying to find work that would keep him in Australia.
"I had planned a holiday. It was to be the whole family, my parents, my daughters and Cecilia," he said.
"We were scheduled to travel to Chile."
NSW police were immediately suspicious of Santoro when Ms Haddad's body was found in April, after they discovered he had brought forward a planned trip to Rio.
Santoro said his travel plans changed because "my father was sick" from a heart condition.
"My mother called saying she thought it was getting worse," he said.
"She asked me to come back earlier because of my father's health. I said it was difficult but that I would try."
Santoro said he called his airline to change his tickets and that he had booked a return flight to Australia later in the year. No evidence was tendered to back up his statements in the pre-trial hearing.
Santoro has been in custody since being arrested by Rio police on July 7. A judge will rule in the new year whether or not his case will move to trial and whether that will be before a jury or a judge.
The judge is also considering a separate motion to move his case to federal court, which would potentially see him released and rearrested as the judicial process would need to restart.
NSW police travelled last month to Rio to share a brief of evidence with local prosecutors.
At a previous Rio court hearing, Ms Haddad's ex husband Felipe Torres, who travelled from his Perth home to testify, explained how Sydney police had asked him to help their investigation.
Police allege Santoro strangled Ms Haddad before rolling her in a carpet, weighing her body
down with weights and sinking it in the Lane Cove River.
Kayakers had discovered Ms Haddad's body floating in the river near Woolwich, about the same time Santoro - who had lived with Ms Haddad for several months before they split - was flying home to Rio.
Mr Torres last month told the court police suspected within hours that Santoro, who had brought forward his planned trip to Brazil by several days, was responsible for her death.
"I called him with the police listening, and I asked, 'What's the story?'. The police gave me the words," Mr Torres said.
While the alleged crime occurred in Australia, Santoro is being tried in Brazil, because although the country does not allow extradition, the fact both he and Ms Haddad were Brazilian citizens means local authorities can seek justice here under the extraterritorial arm of the criminal justice system.
Police allege Santoro "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.