The killer who kidnapped and raped a British woman, 21, is released after just six months


Exclusive:

Donald Fernandes, who is also a convicted murderer, is now free to walk the streets despite having kidnapped and raped Briton Lauren Caton, who was working in Portugal as a barmaid at the time of the attack.

Lauren Caton was kidnapped and raped
Lauren Caton was kidnapped and raped

A British bar worker in Portugal has spoken of her horror after the brute who kidnapped and raped her was released from jail after just six months.

Donald Fernandes, who is also a convicted murderer, received a shocking release from his 14-year sentence thanks to a loophole in the law.

He is now free to walk the streets while his appeal is being reviewed, on the condition that he check in every day at a police station.

But terrified victim Lauren Caton, 21, who bravely waived her anonymity, told the Sunday People: “I am absolutely devastated.

“I am still recovering from the trauma I went through and will be for the rest of my life. Hearing that he is free is like pouring salt on an open wound.”

Lauren was 19 years old and working in the Algarve when she was kidnapped in May 2019 by the head of the Fernandes construction company, who held her for nine days.

He was only saved after handing a Burger King worker a note scrawled on a napkin asking for help during an outing in Faro.

Fernandes’ release was triggered when an appeal judge agreed to review his sentence.

That meant the sentence was “suspended” and he could only be held as a remand prisoner.

donald fernandes
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But he had already served more time than the maximum allowed for unconvicted suspects under local law.

Fernandes, 37, will be sent back to jail only if the judge rules his original conviction was correct.

He previously served seven years in jail for involuntary manslaughter in his native Canada.

Fernandes was the getaway driver in a botched 2003 Montreal robbery in which a senior citizen was shot and killed. He moved to Portugal but was jailed last July.

The village where she was held captive
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Lauren, who is originally from South East London and still lives abroad, said: “I stand by everything I told the police and the courts that formed part of my evidence.

“No one has told me why the appeal is being considered.

“I understand that someone has the right to appeal. But when we’re talking about something as serious as rape and kidnapping, I find it amazing that he could be back on the streets before that appeal is resolved.”

Fernandes arriving at court
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Fernandes pleaded not guilty in court, claiming that Lauren and another accuser, a Brazilian woman she met and befriended before targeting the British teen, knew each other and had devised a plan to frame him.

Fernandes was convicted of six rapes, kidnappings, assaults and threats.

Trial judges ruled that Fernandes had been proven to have threatened to “pimp, kill and bury” Lauren after offering to drive her home after a late-night drink.

They also said he cut her throat with a knife, kicked and beat her and sexually abused her at his villa in Benfarras. The Brazilian woman said she was forced to eat soap and had her head pushed down the toilet in the same house days earlier.

The judges described their treatment of both as inhuman and degrading.

Lauren was released after handing a restaurant worker a note, which read: “Don’t make a scene, but I’m a missing person. Please call the police. Please act normal.”

He called Fernandes a “psychopath with a Jekyll and Hyde personality”. Fernandes protested his innocence during his intermittent trial that began in December 2020 in Faro and ended with his conviction by a three-judge panel last July.

Authorities confirmed that the appeal hearing will take place behind closed doors in the southern city of Evora.

No date has yet been set.

Fernandes has had to hand over his passport in the meantime.

His lawyer Joao Nabais, who accused chief judge Ana Lucía Cruz of lack of impartiality before the guilty verdict, has not yet ruled.




www.mirror.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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