Madeleine’s abduction: New house search in Benagil, near Lagoa

Owner is a wealthy Russian citizen

A house near the small village of Benagil has been searched yesterday, May 20, by Police, according to Diário de Notícias (DN), a Portuguese daily newspaper. The house belongs to a Russian citizen, who lives there since three years. DN (*) wrote that the house is a “fortress, with high walls, barbed wire, dogs and armed guards”.

Gazeta Digital went there, this afternoon and after several hours of search, I found what I believe is the house referred by DN. The fact that it’s Sunday and we are not it the peak touristic season made things more difficult, as many restaurants, coffee-shops and bars were closed. It is located near the small village of Benagil and, according to local residents; it’s the only house in that area they know is inhabited by Russians.

Benagil is a very small village, just a few dozen houses on the top of a hill. From the village to the house it’s a short distance, but it is located at an isolated area. To go there we had to leave the main road and turn to a narrow unpaved road. After two minutes, we were there. It is a large property, with a rustic wall with 1, 80 meters, topped with green painted iron bars that have around 40 cm. The wall, witch has the two main entry doors of the property – there is another one, a backdoor – is as long as the width of a football field.

At both doors, a warning saying “Beware of the dog” and what seemed to be a small video camera. I could hear the barking of several big dogs, alerted by the sound of the motorcycle I was driving. Several local residents told me that they never met personally people living there, because the only thing they see is luxury cars driving in and out. One of the cars is a Dodge Viper, a top sports car, priced at around 70 thousand dollars.

They know they are Russians because the previous owner, a Dutch citizen who built the house, told local friends to whom he sold the property, three years ago. Same sources told me that the newspaper reference to “armed guards” may have been a misunderstanding, because there is a nearby property where a private security company has several men. That property has no buildings, but it’s a large forested area, with a lot of pine trees. The owners, a Portuguese bank and a well known businessman have a project to build a resort, there, and hired the private guards just to protect the area against summer fires, they told me.

Gazeta Digital couldn’t get a formal confirmation, from Portuguese police, if the house we locate was, indeed, the target of yesterday’s search. But the resident of Benagil who showed me the way for the house, a young man whose mother owns the only restaurant located near the small fishing harbour of the village told me he didn’t knew no other house with those characteristics and inhabited by Russians. (02:50 am - May 21, 2007)

(*) DN just made a small one-column reference with this story and didn't reproduced it in it's online edition



Police don't confirm new house searches and possible existence of other suspect

The spokesman of “Polícia Judiciária” (Portuguese CID) told to Gazeta Digital that PJ “don’t confirm any of the above mentioned situations, just that investigations continue”. This statement was sent after I requested, today, a formal confirmation that a “new house search was made, on May 20, and that PJ was looking for one more already identified male, allegedly involved in Madeleine’s abduction." (10:15 am - May 21, 2007)

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