The last image of father-of-six Amarildo de Souza alive is the grainy CCTV footage showing him getting into a military police car outside a bar in Rio de Janeiro’s biggest favela on July 14.
His body has never been found, but after a high-profile campaign by his family for answers, the grim reality is beginning to emerge: Amarildo was being driven to be tortured and, it is suspected, killed at the hands of the police installed to bring law and order to the favela.
An investigation has found the assistant bricklayer was subjected to asphyxiation, Taser shocks and drowning during a 40-minute ordeal.
Prosecutors have already accused 10 policemen, including the former commander of Rocinha’s Police Pacification Unit (UPP) Major Edson Santos, of Amarildo’s murder and torture. But on Tuesday, the investigation into Amarildo’s disappearance led to a further 15 officers being charged while more details emerged of his alleged torture.
Prosecutor Carmen Eliza Bastos de Carvalho said experts and witnesses had established the exact spot where Amarildo was abused.
She also identified four officers accused of taking the 43-year-old to the location, behind the container units that serve as the UPP base, and torturing him.
Ms Carvalho said Lt Luiz Felipe de Medeiros, Sgt Reinaldo Gonçalves and soldiers Anderson Maia and Douglas Vital were told to interrogate Amarildo for information about where drug dealers were hiding weapons and drugs in Rocinha.
The biggest favela in Rio is home to more than 100,000 and was occupied or “pacified” by police in 2011.
Amarildo was taken for questioning by police on the weekend of an anti-drug raids called Operation Paz Armada.
Allegedly working under orders from Maj Santos after the operation yielded scant results, the four were said to have asphyxiated him using a bag over his head and in his mouth as well as shocking him with a Taser gun.
According to testimony, they also drowned him in a bucket of water collected from the air-conditioning unit in the police station, where traces of blood were found.
“This torture, according to witnesses, lasted around 40 minutes,” Ms Carvalho said. “During this time, the victim, Amarildo, asked for it to stop, whispered, asked for help and stated that he knew nothing.”
A statement released by the Public Ministry of Rio de Janeiro said: “Residents also reported the practice of torture, abuse of authority and injury on the part of the police in that unit.”
Prosecutors dismissed the officers’ claim that Amarildo left the police station alive and was later killed by drug traffickers.
“A camera next to the Dioneia steps did not register Amarildo leaving the UPP,” the statement added.
Analysis of a mobile phone call, in which responsibility was claimed for the killing, compared the voice to those of the 34 officers named in the court papers and identified soldiers Marlon Campos Reis and Vital. A drug dealer had previously been blamed for making the call and taking credit for the killing.
Other research as part of the investigation found oil was used to cover up bloodstains behind the UPP unit. According to Globo, one police officer who gave evidence, said: “You wouldn’t do to an animal what they did to this man.”
Of the charges, all 25 officers are accused of torture, 17 of concealing a body, 13 for conspiracy and four for procedural fraud. The sentences range from nine years and four months to 33 years in prison.
Last month, Amnesty International said the investigation and indictments were “an important step in the fight against impunity for crimes committed by state agents.”