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May. 22, 2022 | Sunday
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SUBMISSION: Murder ... he wrote
Madeira Island in Portugal. (Sourced photo)



Near the end of July, my wife Nan and I returned to our recently purchased winter home for a summer visit.

It’s located in a visually stunning, wonderfully relaxing village on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The town is nestled at the base of volcanic mountains on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Northern breezes bring cool, clean air, while rustling the leaves of the banana plants on the myriad of sculpted terraces at the foot of our villa. The now becalmed sea laps on stone beaches aided by several waterfalls — mere ribbons of misted vapour and streams splashing down the cliff faces.

We delightfully returned to this idyll Jardim do Mar (garden of the sea) with the wonder and glee of children on their first visit to Disneyworld.

Two days in, we began work in earnest doing some painting, building and decorating the new house. Out front, a local resident had leashed a large, runaway Billy goat to an able tree while he sought out the animal’s origins. Billy’s constant, sonorous bleating reminded everyone within earshot of his plight — rope entanglement and water dysfunction, and Nan, after two days of being the goat’s primary care giver, sought out the fellow who was supposed to be responsible for it. She proclaimed the animal would be released “Free Billy” as it were, to the wilds, if he did not rise to the occasion and properly help him.

This prompted a delightful older man named Davide, his erstwhile cousin Manny, his niece Esterina and his grandniece (everyone in town is related) to our door. Refreshments and potables were enjoyed while the men groused about a goat they didn’t own, and how they could relieve us of our old sofas (a new one was coming in two days) through our narrow doors and up the cobbled alleyways.

The women toured the house and spoke of interior design and their mutual grandchildren. Esterina, 53, asked Nan if she could help her with a couple of rooms she was preparing for rentals in her home. Many things were resolved and we parted ways.

That was Sunday afternoon. Sunday night found us strolling under the moonlight along the Promenade at the water’s edge in search of ice cream and a jug of white wine at “Portinos” — a quayside establishment about a kilometer away.

While there, in the quietude and peace, a shirtless, single and enraged man strutted onto the scene. His howling insanity on the pavement in front of the establishment seemed directed at no one, but clearly unsettled everyone, especially the couple with two young children seated beside us. We don’t speak Portuguese, so his ravings were undecipherable.

After about ten minutes, into the dark, he left. Most of the patrons soon followed suit as it was getting late. We wandered back up the hill, through the meandering alleys and laneways of the village and slowed at Esterina’s home, pondering the huge disrepair of her entrance, as she makes ready for her new tourist business.

Little did we know that as we spoke, inside that very house, our newly met friend, Esterina lay dead, brutally murdered by her deranged husband of one year, on his return this same evening from fishing, ten days at sea.

It was the gentle, always smiling, Uncle Davide who discovered her ruined corpse — throat slashed, eyes cut out and an endearment carved across her chest — just a couple of hours later.

The village is now reeling, not knowing what to do, who to look at, what to say. We are the “newbies.”

Little more information from the community will likely be coming to us beyond the local news reporting. Needless to say, the entire island is shocked and subdued.

Madeirans always took great pride in the lack of violence and crime on the island. They frequently eschewed those of the ‘outside’ world in order to keep their own peace. It has been said that you could leave your wallet on an open porch, and upon returning three months later, it would still be there. But, alas, mental illness knows no bounds. The husband was apparently picked up a few hours after the horror, “on the run’” the rumour has it.

If that were the same madman we were exposed to, it wouldn’t have taken great policing to uncover the perpetrator, but hats off to the constabulary for their expediency. It was said he was a “bad” man, many, many years her junior, from another town.

We actually met him in March and can certainly attest to a certain anger and intensity. Esterina had told Nan that he had just stopped drinking and was a new man. A new horizon beckoned. So sadly, it was not the one she imagined.