Shock twist as Cecilia Haddad murder suspect walks into Brazilian court

Shock twist as Cecilia Haddad murder suspect walks into Brazilian court

Mario Santoro left Sydney and flew to Brazil hours after Cecilia Haddad’s body was spotted by kayakers floating in Lane Cove River.

Initially, NSW Police said the 38-year-old Brazilian businesswoman’s death was not suspicious. But days later, following the discovery of her abandoned red Fiat car at West Ryde train station, and with detectives learning she had a string of appointments, a murder investigation was launched in April 2018.Mario Santoro’s murder trial suffered a shock delay after suddenly sacking his defense team. (9 News)

That shift in focus sparked an international manhunt that stretched from Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, high-level negotiations involving Interpol and Australian and Brazilian officials, and ended with Santoro’s arrest three months after he landed at Rio’s airport .

Santoro, Haddad’s ex-boyfriend, was charged with her murder.

Police alleged Santoro, 44, strangled Haddad and dumped her body in a river eight kilometers from her Ryde apartment.

“It’s been five very difficult years,” Joao Muller Haddad, Cecilia’s brother, told 9News on the eve of a murder trial that was due to start today in Rio but was temporarily derailed.

Entering court flanked by armed guards and wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants, Santoro sensationally informed the judge that he had dropped his defense team.

Prosecutors and the small team of NSW detectives who flew 14,000km from Sydney to give evidence were stunned by the unexpected revelation.

The trial may now be suspended for several months.

Brazilian national Cecilia Haddad was found in Sydney’s Lane Cove River on 29 April 2018. (Supplied) Mario Marcelo Santoro left Australia the same weekend that the body of his ex-girlfriend, Cecilia Haddad, was found dumped in the Lane Cove River. (9 News)

“We miss her so much,” said Muller Haddad.

He said his sister’s death had “completely devastated” the family.

Haddad moved to Australia more than a decade ago and first lived in Perth.

In 2016 she moved to Sydney where she worked in mining and logistics.

Police allege Santoro strangled Haddad to death in the kitchen of her apartment, and that he fled to his hometown of Rio the next morning.

Months later, the local police descended on Santoro at his sister’s apartment.

NSW homicide detectives allege Cecilia Haddad was murdered in her Ryde flat the day before her body was found in the Lane Cove River. (Supplied)Cecilia Haddad’s fully clothed body was found floating in the Lane Cove River by kayakers. Her car was parked at a Sydney train station at West Ryde. (Supply)

Santoro has since been incarcerated in one of Brazil’s most brutal prisons.

If convicted, he faces a 30-year sentence but will not serve any time in Australia as Brazil does not extradite its citizens.

Haddad and Santoro attended university together in Brazil and were friends for 10 years.

The two dated in Sydney, but it ended shortly before Santoro allegedly killed Haddad.

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