The trial of Filipe Silva started today. Silva is the Vilamoura based businessman who abducted his daughter Ellie (pictured) in 2012, sparking a nationwide search which tracked the girl down to an apartment in Oporto.
Witness claimed in court today that Filipe Silva did not plan the kidnapping of his daughter, stating that the girl told her father that she did not want to return to Ireland where she lived with her mother Candice.
The former partner of Filipe Silva said today in court that the girl's father acted out of desperation.
Filipe Silva, who failed to return the girl in July 2012 ('September 2012' was claimed in court) after spending holidays with her, then hid Ellie for seven months to the distress of her mother and current husband.
The first session of the trial finally started on Friday morning, after three postponements, with the former partner of the businessman, who at the time lived with the accused, said that in the days before the date set for Ellie’s return to Ireland, the eight-year-old had cried and asked her father not to take her back to her mother.
"He (Filipe Silva) grabbed her daughter and said 'do not cry anymore, your father will not take you to Ireland,'" according to witness Ana Isabel Almeida who added that her ex-partner had been "desperate" not knowing what to do, and acted "instinctively" and had not planned to flee with his daughter.
Silva, who today chose not to testify, took the girl to a friend's house in Oporto where she was seven found months later in February 2013.
Ellie finally was handed over to the authorities by Filpe Silva’s paternal grandmother and Filipe Silva was detained by the Judicial Police.
Before deciding to keep the girl from her mother, in August 2012 Filipe Silva filed an injunction to try to block Ellie’s departure to Ireland.
This was a result of a letter from Ellie’s mother, Candice Gannon, "in which she expressed her intention of moving from Madeira to Ireland with her daughter and her current partner."(In fact this letter was a formal request from Candice Gannon for Silva to agree to Ellie moving to Ireland.)
Ana Isabel Almeida also claimed that the girl's mother did not provide her with a stable life, and claimed that while residing in Madeira, Ellie changed school "five or six times."
The next witness for the defence, Luis Calçada Correia, a long standing friend of the accused Filipe Silva, said that Silva was concerned about the move to Ireland.
"I know Filipe well and he would never do anything against the will of his daughter," said Correia, who then alleged that Candice Gannon did not behave normally as a mother, claiming there had been some episodes of heavy drinking.
Luis Calçada Correia, the owner of a pharmacy in Vilamoura and neighbour of the accused, said that Ellie said several times that she did not want to lose contact with her father and definitely did not want to go to Ireland.
The trial continues and it is expected in due course that Ellie, her mother and Philip Gannon will testify by teleconference from Ireland with a different version of the events and facts surrounding the lead up to and period of Ellie's kidnap.
Silva's defence seems to be off to a very shakey start as It is already proven in the Faro criminal court that Ellie's mother did not plan wrongfully to remove her daughter to Ireland, as his witnesses are claiming. She had written a formal request to Silva to which he was not obliged to agree.
Prior to Ellie's kidnapping, the Portuguese Family Law Court, the High Court the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court all had issued decisions that awarded the custody of Ellie to her mother. Filpe Silva ignored the request for Ellie to live in Ireland which he was under no obligation to agree to and hid her in Oporto for seven months.
A source close to this case commented that based on the facts it will become clear that Silva deliberately broke the law by taking and hiding his daughter from her mother and the authorities, and has shown no remorse for his actions nor the pain and suffering he has caused to Ellie and her mother.
The time, trouble and expense Silva has caused the Portuguese authorities may also be taken into account. The personal opinion of his witnesses may not be enough for Silva to avoid a conviction for the serious crime of kidnap of which he is acused.