This information belongs to the Ministério Público in Portimão, Portugal.
It was released to the public on 4 August 2008 in accordance with Portuguese Law


785 to 788 Witness statement of Pedro Miguel Esteves Fernandes 2007.05.09


03-Processos, volume III Pages 785 to 788

Witness Statement of Pedro Miguel Esteves Fernandes

Date: 2007.05.09

Location: DIC Portimao

Occupation: GNR Officerr

Location: GNR-Ajuda


The witness says


- that he comes to the process as GNR soldier, being part of the search dogs or trailers team. In this capacity he serves as a K9 search technician and works with two sniffer dogs. He was asked to bring his team to the Luz zone (Lagos) related to the disappearance of the minor from the Ocean Club.


- On the 4th of May of the current year, around 23h, he was asked to use the two sniffer dogs he has trained in the search operation that attempted to reconstruct the route taken by the missing minor. For this purpose he made the dogs sniff a bath towel which had supposedly been used by the missing minor.


- that after the first dog (Rex) was given to sniff the towel near the missing girl's apartment A of block 5, the dog headed to the door of that apartment. Soon afterwards, he headed towards block 4, using a passageway* that goes along block 5 (and leads to the last ground floor apartment's patio) and then using, turning left, the path between block A and the leisure area of the resort (that includes the pools, the Tapas restaurant, etc). In other words the dog went around block 5 up to the main street (Francisco Gentil Martins). Once there, Rex crossed the street and, next to the wall of block 6, turned right and headed to the area of the contiguous (public) car park (just in front of the Tapas secondary reception). More specifically he went next to a lamp post, smelling the ground there. After searching that zone, he crossed the road again towards the entrance of the Tapas area and smelled the door which was closed at that hour. He then went back to the parking zone and stopped being interested i.e lost the scent.


- The same operation started with the second dog and globally this dog took the same route and headed to the light post of the mentioned car park, smelling there for some time and finally losing interest in the trailing. It should be stated that the only difference is that this second dog did not head to the entrance of the (Tapas) leisure area. Besides the witness informs that the dogs had the "trailing lead", a sign for the dog that he's working, though no direction is imposed on him.


- None of the dogs used in this search operation, after having smelled the towel, tried to get inside of block 5. They headed (in the passageway) to the path between the block and the leisure area. The witness states it should be noted that the second dog may have been conditioned by the route taken by the first sniffer dog as he may have followed the first dog's trail.


- Taking into account the aforementioned result, the witness states that it can be confirmed with a certain degree of certainty that the missing minor passed that (dogs') route, on the day of the events or even on the days before. This situation can be explained by the layout of the ground. That space is actually reduced and flanked by walls (the block facade and the wall between the passageway and the car park), which helps keeping longer the scents that would otherwise be affected by the wind. The witness wants to let it clear that these sniffer dogs are more used to do this type of work in rural settings where there is not such a high diffusion of scents.


- Yesterday (08/05/07) around 23h45, this search action was repeated but this time the dogs were conditioned to get inside of blocks 5 and 4 of the resort. In this type of operation, given the time that had lapsed, and with the heat that could already be felt, the results might be rather relative given that the dog will check all the scents he comes across although he will mainly do it with strong scents, namely if an apartment is occupied. Also, any noise perceived by the dog in an apartment may kindle his interest.


- Initiating the operation, the first sniffer dog, after having smelled the same towel that was used in the previous operation, began searching. He certainly showed more interest near the doors of some apartments whilst he did not even attempt to get closer to others. But in none of these actions the dog gave the handler the signal that he had caught the scent of the missing child. However, the dog showed more interest in smelling the doors of 5J, 5H and 4G and the area nearby. The witness states that next to 5H, there were two bags of rubbish, which conditions immediately the search since the scent is more intense and the dog has to discriminate. Just outside apartment 4G was a tray with plates, cutlery and cloth napkins, apparently used. The witness is aware that the parents of the missing child were lodged (at the time) in this apartment. In relation to the dog's interest at doorway 5J, it might have been conditioned by the eventual presence of people inside or by a scent that the dog wanted to check. Having been trained to search, the dog tends to check the presence of the sniffed (referent) scent.


- After completing the search in the interior of block 5, verandas giving access to apartments, and once in the exterior, the sniffer dog took the same route he had taken on 04/05/07, heading to the path between the block and the (Tapas) leisure area and then towards the same parking area where he finally lost interest in trailing. This situation may be linked to the biggest concentration of odours in the path, more preserved and protected from the winds as it is flanked by walls (the high wall of the Tapas leisure resort and the smaller walls of the patios). When the dog arrived in the main street (FGM) and turned right, there was more diffusion of scents, which explains that the dog finally stopped searching.


- The second dog was submitted to the same operation. He too showed interest in the door of apartment 5J. Here he got up on his hind paws to the parapet of the veranda and raised his head in such a way as to catch the odour. As mentioned previously, this interest may be due to various factors but it is certain that, smelling an intense scent, the dog has to check whether the referent scent is present. In the exterior, the sniffer-dog immediately took the first dog's route, heading to the parking area next to block 6 where he lost interest in trailing.


- The witness clarifies that a scent is much more intense in a rural area and therefore is immediately detected by the sniffer dog. In the exterior of an urban area, due to the great concentration of scents, the dog may be confused, making it difficult to search as more time goes by after the event.


- Questioned, the witness states that in relation to an action of this nature, it is difficult to evaluate precisely the work of the dog (Rex), even though he knows this dog very well and is well aware of what this dog is capable of. The conditions that surrounded the search contribute to increase the degree of uncertainty and what the dog revealed might only mean that in an area of more intense scent what he was checking was whether the referent scent was present. The handler therefore thinks that the interest showed by the dog near the doors of some apartments may not mean that he detected the referent scent. The dog might have simply checked, since he never showed his handler that he had found the searched scent.


- And nothing more was said, finds it in conformity, ratifies and signs.


* The dogs' route shouldn't be confused with another manner to turn around block 5 consisting in going up the steps leading from the passageway (sometimes called "corridor") to block 5 car park, turning then left in the direction of block 4 and left again in the (public) path between blocks 5 and 4, that leads to the path between block 5 and the resort.


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