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Cecilia Haddad murder: ex-boyfriend tells court trip to Brazil planned in advance

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The man accused of murdering the Brazilian Cecilia Haddad in Sydney has said his trip to Rio de Janeiro about the same time her body was found was planned in advance.

Haddad’s former boyfriend Mario Marcelo Ferreira dos Santos Santoro, 40, appeared in court in Rio on Monday.

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Santoro did not answer questions put to him by prosecutors and the judge, but did answer questions from his defence lawyers.

He stands accused of killing Haddad, 38, in Sydney in April and disposing of her body in the Lane Cove River. He flew to Rio the weekend her body was discovered.

Santoro told the court on Monday his trip had been planned to see his parents and children but, owing to his father requiring surgery, he had returned to Brazil sooner than planned.

Asked by his defence lawyers why he did not have a return ticket to Australia, Santoro said his flight had been booked to Chile and from there he had planned to take his children and his mother to meet Haddad. They had planned to go skiing before returning to Australia, he said.

At a previous hearing, the court heard that Rio police claimed Santoro had made an “informal confession” to killing Haddad and disposing of her body.

At Monday’s hearing journalists were not allowed into the court by court staff until the final 15 minutes of the 90-minute hearing.

Santoro’s lawyers later spoke about the case, saying the so-called informal confession had not been recorded by police. “Every interview he gave was filmed and recorded,” said Anderson Rollemberg, one of his legal team.

“And now the authorities say that suspect gave a spontaneous statement. Why did they not film nor record it? … In my view this defence is not permissible in court.”

Santoro told the court how he met Haddad while they were studying at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

He had been dating Haddad for a year when she ended their relationship. They lived together in her apartment in Ryde.

At a prior hearing, a friend of Haddad told the court how she spent the days before her death in a “panic” over alleged threats and harassment by Santoro.

Rita Maciel, a 37-year-old Brazilian who lives in Sydney, said her friend had “a fear of being at home, a fear of going to work, a fear of driving her own car”.

Haddad’s mother had also told of her daughter’s fear and of a final phone call, when she said she could hear Santoro banging on the door.

The hearing will resume next year when the judge will decide whether the case will go to a full jury trial.

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