A mere seven months ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and event for which the soccer-mad South American country has committed $900 million for security, a recently retired former pro soccer player was kidnapped and murdered, his severed head delivered in a backpack to his own doorstep Tuesday, where his horrified wife found it.
Police have been baffled by the killing of Joao Santos, a well-liked former player with no reported enemies who retired from the sport earlier this year to open a health food shop in Rio de Janeiro, where he played much of his professional career.
Santos, 35, lived in the city with his 31-year-old wife, Geisa Silva. Police had suspected that the killing may have had something to do with Silva’s job as a social worker with the Rio de Janeiro police department. She reportedly worked out of a police station in a gang-ridden slum, but her job was mainly giving swimming lessons to local kids.
However, on Wednesday police sources said that Santos was recently robbed by three men at his health food store, Forca Natural (Santos is pictured above in the store). In hopes of catching the men, Santos posted surveillance photos of men he said were the robbers.
“Guys, help me put these shop thieves in jail,” Santos wrote on his Facebook page. “I was robbed by these criminals, 13/08/13. Whoever recognises one of them help me!”
Two of the 20 photos posted by Santos can be seen below.
The ex-player’s wife stayed up all night worrying when he failed to return home on Monday night. At about 5:30 in the morning she started getting ready for work when she heard a noise outside. When she opened the door, she saw her husband’s backpack on the front doorstep.
Inside was his severed head, with the eyes and tongue cut out.
Witnesses have now told police they saw two men get into Santos’s car on Monday night as he left the store.
The next day police found more severed human body parts in a river outside of Rio de Janeiro. They believe that the body parts are the remains of Santos and are currently carrying out DNA tests to confirm, or rule out, the possibility.
Santos played for soccer clubs in Rio de Janeiro as well as a team in Honduras and one in Sweden during his professional career.