Former Brazilian footballer Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos has reportedly been kidnapped and decapitated by suspected drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro.
As confirmed by Matt Roper of the Mirror, the former player’s severed head was delivered to his wife on the morning of Oct. 29:
The horrified wife of Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos, 35, made the gruesome discovery as she left the house in Rio de Janeiro for work early yesterday morning.
The player's eyes and tongue had been cut out and his head placed inside one of his own rucksacks, police said.
According to ESPN, Santos was grabbed at around 7:45 p.m. after leaving the local health food store he owned in the Realengo district, a lower- and middle-class district located in Rio’s western area.
The victim’s brother-in-law, who refused to be named, suggested Santos' wife remained up all night waiting for her husband’s return, per Roper’s report:
Every time a car passed by she would go to see.
She was getting ready to go to work at around 5:30 a.m. when she heard a noise, opened the front door and saw his rucksack. When she opened it, it was his head.
From what I know, he didn't have any enemies and neither did his wife.
Santos’ wife, Geisha Silva, works as a social worker in Rio’s Pacification Units. The unit is working to try to take the favelas (shanty towns) back from drug lords. As reported by Roper, investigators are trying to determine whether her work at a military police base in the area could have triggered the murder.
Police chief executive Rafael Rangel confirmed Silva is a social worker and doesn’t possess the power to make arrests in the street, per Brazilian newspaper O Dia and via Roper:
Mrs Silva has no idea who would have done this.
Neither she, her husband or any other member of the family have suffered any type of threat as far as she knows.
There is nothing that would justify such a barbarous crime.
With a career that spanned from 1996 to 2005, Rodrigo Silva Santos played for several teams in Rio such as Bangu and Nacional and also played abroad at Olimpia (Honduras) and Oster Vaxjo (Sweden).
Such a horrific event will fail to allay fears for next summer’s World Cup. Brazilian football is often linked with gang activity and has produced a plethora of frightening occurrences across the years.
Back in July, 20-year-old referee Otavio da Silva was stoned and dismembered by angry supporters after he fatally stabbed a player for refusing to leave the pitch, per BBC News. As noted by the Daily Mail's Ashley Collman, the official’s head was reportedly put on a stake after the incident.
Many top Brazilian footballers have also seen their loved ones kidnapped by gangs in an attempt to extort huge funds for their release.
Ann Gripper of the Mirror highlighted key incidents in 2006, with stars such as Romario and Robinho being forced to deal with family disappearances, while Pele narrowly escaped two gunmen when they recognized the Brazilian legend in his car.
At the end of 2012, the sister of Zenit Saint Petersburg forward Hulk was reunited with her family after being taken hostage for a day, per Alex Horlock of the Daily Mail.
A teenager was recently killed during a million-strong protest against the World Cup, which sees major funds spent on sporting stadiums rather than the nation's poor, per The Telegraph. Alongside this, protesters recently halted an official FIFA visit to one of the upcoming tournament's arenas, per BBC News.
Just two weeks before Santos' murder, Brazil's largest drug cartel promised a "World Cup of terror," as highlighted by the Daily Mail.
With under eight months until the competition begins and an influx of tourists arrive, it's clear security forces have plenty of work to do.