Was Joana Cipriano murdered, are her mother and uncle still in prison and why is it similar to Madeleine McCann's case?

22 March 2019, 17:30

Joana Cipriano went missing in 2004
Joana Cipriano went missing in 2004. Picture: Getty

The eight-year-old disappeared less than ten miles away from where Madeleine McCann vanished three years later.

Joana Cipriano was an eight-year-old girl who vanished on September 12, 2004, in Figueira, a village near Portimão on the Algarve.

She was on her way to a local shop when she disappeared and was never seen again.

READ MORE: The 48 questions Kate McCann refused to answer

Was Joana Cipriano murdered?

Joana Cipriano went missing when she was just eight years old during a trip to buy tuna and milk from a local shop in Figueira, Portugal, on September 12, 2004.

She was spotted that afternoon by a neighbour who saw her just 200 yards from her home, but this was the last time Joana was seen alive.

Portuguese authorities launched an investigation, which led police to conclude that her mother, Leonor Cipriano, and her uncle, João Cipriano, had killed her.

The prosecution in the case claimed that the young girl had accidentally caught the reported perpetrators having incestuous sex, which led to her alleged murder. They also believed that Joana was dismembered and fed to the family pigs.

Leonor Cipriano admitted to the crime, although later retracted her confession, and João admitted to assaulting his niece as well as cutting her up and putting her remains in a fridge, which was later crushed and burned.

Authorities confronted João about sexual abuse claims, too. He replied: "I did not harm her — I only killed her".

Leonor was arrested and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and Joana’s uncle, João Cipriano, was also put in prison for the crime, according to ABC News.

Her body was never found.

Why is Joana Cipriano's case similar to Madeleine McCann's?

The alleged murder of Joana Cipriano and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are often compared.

Figueira, the city in which Joana disappeared, is only seven miles away from the location that Madeleine McCann vanished from three years later.

Joana and Madeleine's mothers both launched public campaigns at the time in a bid to find their missing daughters, but both also ended up as potential suspects and were investigated by police. Kate McCann was never charged.

Reports suggest that neither of the crime scenes were properly secured.

Chief Inspector Gonçalo Amaral, the former lead detective on the McCann case, also oversaw the Cipriano case.

He was convicted of covering up for police colleagues who allegedly assaulted Joana's mother Leonor, although the officers were alter quitted. Amaral was also found guilty of falsifying police documents in Joana's case – a conviction which came during the Madeleine McCnn case – and was handed an 18-month sentence.