Football star on trial for killing lover
The trial of a former Brazilian football star charged with orchestrating the kidnapping and gruesome murder of an ex-girlfriend has started with courtroom arguments that caused two lawyers to abandon the case, and with a tearful plea for justice from the victim's mother.
The case of the former Flamengo goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes, known in Brazil just as Bruno, has riveted Brazil and shocked the world of football.
Fernandes' accomplices allegedly held his former girlfriend, model Eliza Samudio, before killing her, quartering her, and feeding her remains to dogs.
The former captain of one of Rio's premier clubs led his team to Brazilian football championship victory in 2009.
That same year, Samudio made the first allegations to police that she was pregnant with Fernandes' child, and that the football great and others kidnapped her and tried to force her to terminate the pregnancy.
She refused. The child was born healthy, and named Bruno as well.
The model disappeared soon afterward, in June 2010.
In December 2010, Fernandes was found guilty of Samudio's initial accusations and is serving a prison sentence of four years and six months in that case. After a court dispute, Samudio's mother was named the child's guardian.
The former football player now faces a second trial, on charges he ordered his ex-girlfriend's grisly death.
Investigators said the player was behind a scheme that lured the 25-year-old woman from Rio de Janeiro to a ranch in the neighbouring state of Minas Gerais with the promise that Fernandes would recognise the child as his and give her an apartment.
There she was allegedly held again her will by Fernandes' accomplices, killed and quartered, her remains fed to dogs who roamed the property.
The first day of the murder trial in Minas Gerais was marked by high drama, with attorneys for two of Fernandes' alleged accomplices who are also facing murder charges - the former police officer, Marcos dos Santos, and the soccer player's right hand man, Luiz Romao - walking out on the case after arguing with the judge over access to videos of witness testimony.
"We would like to leave clear to the jury that it is impossible to carry out a fair trial," said in court Ercio Quaresmo, the attorney for Santos, according to O Globo newspaper.
Others also charged with Samudio's kidnapping, murder and the hiding of her body are Dayanne Rodrigues, Fernandes' wife, and Fernanda Castro, a lover.
All those charged with the death have pleaded innocent, including Fernandes.
The attorney for the former footballer said he remained confident that his client would walk out a free man.
"Bruno is tired of being in prison," said attorney Rui Pimenta to O Globo newspaper outside court in the town of Contagem. "He is ready to walk out and go eat some rare barbecue."
The defence's argument is that there can be no murder charges because Samudio is, in fact, alive. The attorney Pimenta says he will produce proof that Samudio is living in Eastern Europe.
Samudio's mother, Sonia Moura, told the news website G1 that she trusted justice would be made and dared the soccer player to look her in the eyes in court.
"I believe in justice, and in the condemnation of all the accused," she said. "I want my daughter's mortal remains."