"It was a nightmare. For seven months, I did not know if my daughter was alive or dead."
Candice Gannon was giving evidence from Ireland via a video-link to Faro court on Wednesday and told the panel of judges of the psychological effects her daughter’s kidnap had on her during the months Ellie was hidden by her father, Filipe Silva.
In September 2012, when Giselle “Ellie” Kelly Silva was seven-years-old, her father Filipe Silva failed to return her after a family holiday period, taking her to Oporto where she had to use a false name and wear a disguise when leaving the apartment where she was being held.
Ellie’s absence eventually was taken seriously by the authorities in Faro and a hunt for the kidnapped girl was mounted, leading seven months later to Oporto where Ellie was found to be living with her father in the apartment owned by a friend.
Ellie finally was handed over to the authorities by Filpe Silva’s paternal grandmother and Silva was detained by the Judicial Police.
In the first session of Silva's trial for kidnap in October this year, held after three postponements, Filipe Silva’s former partner, who claimed that at the time she was living with the accused, said that in the days before the date set for Ellie’s return to Ireland, the girl had cried and asked her father not to take her back to her mother, adding that Silva had been "desperate" not knowing what to do, and acted "instinctively" and had not planned to flee with his daughter.
In the second session of Filipe Silva’s trial, Ellie, her mother and step-father gave evidence via a video-link from Ireland, where the family now lives.
Candice Gannon explained to the group of judges that her daughter had been "deeply marked" during the period in which she was held against her and the family court’s wishes and that she continues with daily therapy.
Ellie told the court that she had been reluctant to go with her father to Oporto, "I wanted to go back to my mother in Ireland. I never tried to contact my mother because I was afraid of my father's reaction," adding that she was "disguised with a cap, a jacket and sunglasses." "I felt sad, as if I was stuck."
Ellie told the court that she never left the flat except to go to school, that she was forced to use the false name ‘Pipinha’, had missed her mother but was too afraid to mention her because Silva would get very angry, had sat in a study hall on her own with a private teacher each day, went out only once, had to wear a disguise and was allowed no contact with other children.
Silva, a Vilamoura based businessman, is due to give evidence at the final hearing in two weeks time - the parties then will wait for the judges’ verdict after a summing up sometime in January, 2016.
Filipe Silva failed to attend the court hearing this week, claiming he had to go to hospital having suffered an injury.
Candice Gannon and her daughter Ellie Silva