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Figuera - Tragic Tale Of Murdered Girl

Original Source: SKY: 13 SEPTEMBER 2007
By Alison Chung Sky News, in Portugal
Updated: 14:08, Thursday September 13, 2007
The village of Figuera

It's drab and a little ramshackle - but mention the name "Figuiera" to anyone in Portugal and most people will know it.

"People are upset about what happened here. It was not a good thing for the town," explains Jose Manuel, a local musician.

Three years ago a happy-go-lucky girl, who loved to chat with everyone she passed in the village, went missing and has never been found.

Her name wasn't Madeleine, it was Joana.

The eight-year-old disappeared from her home in Figuiera, near Portimao - just a short drive from where Madeleine vanished in Praia da Luz.

But unlike the ongoing case, the mystery of Joana Cipriano was eventually solved. Her mother and uncle were convicted of killing her, although they never confessed.

"When she disappeared many people went down to the river to look for her body but they found nothing," said Jose.

The case became a national obsession. It ensured Figuiera would not be quickly forgotten.

"For ages people talked about it. Someone would speak to somebody and then somebody would tell someone else and so on. Even the dogs were at it," the musician added.

Susan Dias, a Portuguese-American who lives in Figuiera with her partner, has similar memories.

"It was a massive story. Even now when I tell people where I live they say 'Oh, that's where the little girl came from'," she said.

Until lately no other crime story in Portugal has dominated the headlines more and become so talked about, said Susan.

"When Madeleine disappeared it was treated as a kidnap, but now the situation has changed there are so many opinions flying back and forth."

By her own admission Susan is also caught up in the whirl.

"It's on my mind a lot and I'm always talking to other people about it.

"In the beginning I felt bad because a lot of people were immediately suspect of Madeleine's parents, but now the focus is on them I'm not so sure."

With so many twists and turns in the cases of Madeleine and Joana, one wonders whether the talk will ever stop.

Jose thinks it will.

"Time passes. Memories are forgotten. People still eat and drink. Life moves on."


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