Colleague of murdered Rio de Janeiro council woman named as lead suspect

Marielle Franco was shot four times in the head in crime that shocked Brazil

A colleague on Rio de Janeiro's city council has been named as a lead suspect in the murder of Marielle Franco and her driver in March.

In a crime that shocked Brazil Ms Franco was shot four times in the head on March 14th from a car which pulled alongside the one she was in. In total nine bullets were fired, three of which hit her driver Anderson Gomes who also died.

Brazil's public security minister Raul Jungmann confirmed last week that city council member Marcello Siciliano and serving and former police officers linked to illegal militias in the city are the focus of the investigation which is now reaching its conclusion.

The minister was responding to media reports that a witness in police protection identified Mr Siciliano and former police officer Orlando Oliveira de Araújo as the authors of the crime.


Mr Oliveira de Araújo is currently in jail where he is facing prosecution for crimes linked to his alleged leadership of a militia in the west of the city. Both he and Mr Siciliano deny any involvement in Ms Franco’s murder. The councilman gave a statement to police investigating the case last month.

The witness in police protection, who says he worked for Mr Oliveira de Araújo’s militia, reportedly told investigators that the motive for killing Ms Franco was her effort to expand her political base into the sprawling City of God slum. It is located in the west of the city where the illegal militias are strongest and Mr Siciliano electoral base is located.


Ms Franco participated in a state assembly investigation into the militias in 2008 which exposed the rising power of the groups and their links to local politicians. Containing serving and retired police officers and firemen, the groups combat drug gangs for control of poor communities. Once in control they operate lucrative rackets such as providing clandestine local transport, distributing gas canisters and illegal television and internet connections.

Following the 2008 investigation, a number of Rio politicians were arrested and charged with involvement in militias that dominated their electoral bases. There was optimism that this had broken the link between the groups and local politicians but the murder of Ms Franco has underlined the continuing influence of the groups in Brazil’s second largest city.

According to a report in the O Globo newspaper the witness in police protection told investigators that he was present during four conversations between Siciliano and Oliveira de Araújo during which they discussed Ms Franco. He also provided the names of four men who supposedly carried out the murders.

The assassination of Ms Franco focused attention on the deteriorating security situation in Rio which was placed under federal control in February in an effort to combat rising lawlessness. Despite the deployment of the army security minister Jungmann admitted the effects of the federal intervention has yet to be felt by the majority of Rio’s population but believed measures being taken would eventually bear fruit.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America