The same day three Brazilian men accused of knifing to death three French nationals working for an NGO with refinements of barbarism were brought to court in Rio for interrogation, another French was murdered after resisting a robbery attempt in the Dutra highway, which links Rio to São Paulo.Â
Musician Sebastien Emmanuel Joremi Gressez, 28, was on a tour of Brazil with the South Side band. The crime happened close to Rio in the Japeri neighbordhood in the Baixada Fluminense, a little before 6 pm, after the bus they were riding had a flat tire.
Members of the band were changing the tire when two gunmen appearaed announced they were being assaulted. Gressez reacted and that's when he was shot. He was still taken to a close-by emergency room by the Federal Highway Patrol, but couldn't make it. The gunmen fled without robbing anything.
The 15-member multi-national group with French, English and Argentinean members were in Brazil for six months and had already presented their show in seven capitals in the North and the South of the country. After a one-week stay in Rio they were leaving for São Paulo where they also had a show scheduled.
The French consulate in Rio should release an official note about the tragedy today, March 20. For the adjunct French consul in Rio, Cedric Pietro, the death of Gressez is another blow against Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. "It's unfortunate," he said, "to see the death of still another French national and this time in a robbery. This works against the image of the city."
In his testimony to a Rio juri, Társio Ramires, one of the Brazilians charged with the killing ofÂ Christian Doupes, his wife Delphine Douyère and Jérôme Faure, all workers at the NGO Terr'Ativa, in Copacabana, pleaded innocence. Ramires worked for the charitable organization since its creation a few years ago.
He denied any participation in the deaths, last February 27,Â and accused Luiz Oliveira Gonzaga of being responsible for the crimes. Társio also challenged reports that he was a street kid before becoming a trusted employee of the NGO.
According to his story, the day of the crime he had gone to the Terr'Ativa's office to present his resignation to the French couple who headed the organization and he had decided to take the company's safe because they owed him 700 reais (a little over US$ 350).
He took the two other men José Miguel Gonçalves and Luiz Gonzaga, he told the court so that they wouldÂ act as witnesses.
In the reports prepared by the police, Ramires was the one who hired Luiz and José for 2,000 reais (US$ 945) to help him "give the French a scare". The reason of the crime, say the Brazilian authorities, was to conceal US$ 38,000 (80,000 reais) Ramires had embezzled from Terr'Ativa.
Friends of the French couple told journalists that Ramires was like a son for them and that they trusted him entirely.
Born in Quintino in Rio's north side, the youngest of five siblings, Ramires never knew his father. He met Delphine in mid 1997 before the creation of the NGO, which didn't start before April 2000.
He was one of the first youngsters to be benefited by the French couple's work. He grew with the organization and was in charge of the Brilho da Lua (Moon Shine) project, which helped 40 children (40 more should be helped this year according to plans) from Morro do Fubá favela (shantytown) in the neighborhood of Cascadura, in the north side of Rio.
Ramires, who took care of the NGO's finances, wrote in the organization's site: "What motivates me is to see people happy. I know that I won't be able to change the world by myself, but at least I will change the life of some people."
The police have concluded that Jérôme Faure was tortured before being killed. He was found almost decapitated and there was blood smeared in the walls of every room in the office.
According to the criminals testimony, Faure was tied to a chair and all bloodied, when the French couple arrived and a fight then ensued. Ramires told authorities that the French used drugs and were embezzling thousands of reais that were donated to the NGO.
"They wanted to cut the project's budget and I didn't accept that," he said unconvincingly. "That's when Delphine contacted me and made me part of the scheme."
The dialogue between the murderers at Copacabana's Police District, at the end of last month, showed how cold and insensitive were Ramires and his accomplices, who, on Monday 26, bought surgical gloves, Carnaval masks and knives in preparation for the crime.
"All I wanted was to give them a good scare. But suddenly the fight broke out and then… All I did was to stab Christian once. The rest was all done by Luiz," said Ramires in the presence of reporters. He was dressed in a black social shirt, a brand new jeans and a fashionable Puma tennis.
Luiz Oliveira Gonzaga responded with an ironic smile: "He was the one who killed. Now you are going to say that I've done it all by myself. Then, I'm superman." Gonzaga also knew the French couple for whom he had worked in a dance project. "They were two wonderful people," he said.