Bruno goes from behind bars to between posts

SAO PAULO • In 2010, Bruno Fernandes de Souza (known simply as Bruno) had the football world at his feet.

He was 25 and the captain of Flamengo, Brazil's most popular club. The goalkeeper had just guided them to their first league title in 17 years, was on the verge of an international call-up and linked with a move to the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan.

Seven years later, he has signed a contract with Boa Esporte, a club in Brazil's second division.

This, despite the fact that he is serving a 22-year-sentence for kidnapping and ordering the murder of his former lover.

What happened in between makes for astounding reading.

In 2009, Bruno - married with two daughters - had a sexual encounter with Eliza Samudio, a 25-year-old model. He claimed it was a one-night stand, she insisted it was a romantic relationship.

Samudio became pregnant and, when she refused to have an abortion and filed a paternity suit against Bruno, she claimed that she was kidnapped by two of his friends and forced to take a substance that would induce a miscarriage.

It did not work and she gave birth to a son whom she named Bruninho (little Bruno).

On June 4 she and Bruninho disappeared. The baby was found a few weeks later in the care of friends of Bruno's former wife. Samudio's body was never recovered.

A month later it emerged that Bruno - with help of a number of people, including his wife, another former lover and a teenage cousin - had lured Samudio to his home. She was strangled to death, her body was dismembered and fed to his rottweiler dogs.

Bruno was imprisoned awaiting trial, but it took three years for the Brazilian courts to sentence him. When they did, on March 8, 2013, he got 22 years and three months, less time already served.

But the tale did not end there.

Last month, a Supreme Court Justice upheld Bruno's lawyers' request to release him from prison while he awaits the outcome of his appeal.

And so, with Bruno freed - at least temporarily - he signed a contract to return to professional football with Boa Esporte.

"He was found guilty, he served his time and he was released by the courts," said Rafael Gois Silva Xavier, the owner of Boa Esporte. "He deserves another opportunity."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Bruno goes from behind bars to between posts'. Print Edition | Subscribe