As one of the Algarve’s most hideous murders last year comes to trial in Portimão, another remains poignantly ‘open’ with the man police are certain killed teenager Bruna Nunes still ‘out there’ somewhere, evading the authorities.
Interpol and Europol arrest warrants have been distributed throughout all countries known to have been frequented by Mikhail Razvan Oprea, but since two days after 17-year-old Bruna went missing, all trace of him seems to have vanished.
This is not completely surprising, as it appears 34-year-old Oprea - known by locals as “Miguel” - may have had multiple identities.
This is a story so tragic that it has to be told if only to alert people to the importance of ‘saying things the way they are’.
Had the little community of Aldeia Velha, near Rogil (Aljezur) done this, Bruna Nunes may have lived to enjoy her 18th birthday last May, and gone on to win yet more prizes for the Aljezur Speed Skating Club - where she had already won distinction as junior national champion.
For Bruna had drummed up the courage to make an official complaint against Oprea, who was her mother’s younger partner, and the father of her little sister.
The complaint centred on the Romanian’s violence - we are not sure whether it was specifically connected to violence against Bruna, as inquiries in Aljezur have only revealed that she was reporting violence against her mother. But according to a report in TVMais late last year Bruna’s last Facebook entry before she went missing on December 11 was “I don’t have any more conditions to suffer”. This is a literal translation, difficult to interpret perfectly, but suffice it to say she was in a dark place.
According to our own inquiries, the teenager simply appealed to local GNR police for help, saying her stepfather was abusive. They told us the law requires police to ‘follow-up with inquiries’. This they say they did - receiving no confirmation from any of the family’s neighbours.
The police even confronted Oprea - a fact that locals say sealed Bruna’s fate.
Trying to look at the situation from every angle, we heard the police agents’ reasoning.
“All people told us was that this was an exemplary family”, a young agent told us. “It was only after the girl was killed that everyone said: ‘It was the stepfather. He was bad. We all knew he was bad. Everyone was terrified of him”.
“If only they had told us when we asked!”
In a way, it was just the same with the murder in Alcalar of 72-year-old British grandmother Brenda Davidson. It was only after her body was discovered buried under concrete in her back garden that friends talked about the woman “living in fear” of an allegedly abusive partner.
Had these friends blown the whistle to the authorities when Brenda first told them of her troubles, perhaps she would not have died. We will never know.
But in the case of Bruna, one year on it is a case of either turning the page, or remembering - if only to try and spark renewed interest in this crime in the hope that Oprea will eventually be located.
Answering a query on Facebook, Bruna’s mother Lília Pacheco has said: “We still haven’t seen justice, and it will never be done as it should be… but the authorities are on the ground”.
PJ national director Pedro do Carmo has confirmed this, saying his force “will never forget this barbaric case” and that he holds out hope that police will get their man - if only in years to come.
“We’re always hopeful”, he said. “Only a few weeks ago, we located a murderer who had been on the run for 20 years. It happens. It could happen in this case. That is what we are hoping for”.
But, for their own reasons, the PJ has not issued Oprea’s photo, or any likeness for people to put to memory.
We tried the tack that “some of our readers travel Europe. They might see him and recognise him if there was a photo”, but photos are too open to false leads, we were told.
Talking to local people, a number admitted to knowing Bruna’s stepfather was abusive - one even told us Bruna frequently confided about the situation of domestic violence to her own daughter when the two travelled to school in Lagos on the bus. But no-one was prepared to go on record.
Oprea still has family in the area, we understand. No-one likes the idea of coming out in print.
As for Bruna’s mother, she has left Aldeia Velha with her youngest daughter.
“As far as I know she is in Portimão”, Dília, a former work colleague at Koppe Young Plants, Aljezur, told us. “But I don’t have any contact details. She never came back to work after…” the sentence trailed off.
Lília has wiped her former Facebook page and has set up a commemorative page for her daughter which still sees touching tributes from relatives and friends. She writes as Bruna Nunes, and says she set up the page so that her daughter will never be forgotten.
In memory of Bruna, Lília occasionally announces “Masses” that are held in local churches.
There are some stories in journalism that one never forgets. This is one of them.