Belinda Pereira was found dead in Dublin six days after Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Why do so few remember her case?
On Christmas Eve 1996, a young English woman traveled from London to Dublin to work in the sex trade. Days later, Belinda Pereira’s naked body was found in an apartment north of the city by her pimp, who had called to collect money she had made from clients in five days. Belinda had been hit on the head with a device and a blanket had been thrown over her body, which was lying on a bed.
The 26-year-old was found murdered just six days after the murder of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork, who also died of blows to the head. Both were foreign women murdered on Irish soil. Similarities in circumstances aside, the public reaction to their murders could not have been more different.
“Everyone in this country knows about the du Plantier case, but no one has the faintest idea who
Belinda Pereira did it,” a security source said.
“The murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier is the most notorious murder of a foreigner in Ireland, but the murder of Belinda a few days later failed to capture the imagination of the general public. Much of this is due to prejudice because she has worked in the sex trade. 1996 was a different time. The murder of Belinda was covered in the media but completely overshadowed by the du Plantier case.”
Belinda had worked alone in the two-room flat on Liffey Street in the city centre.
Her pimp told Gardaí he arrived at the apartment, let himself in with his own key, and found Belinda’s bloodied and apparently dead body on the bed. He called Gardaí, who met him at the scene minutes later. A murder investigation was launched.
The wide-ranging investigation eventually led to detectives questioning a Catholic priest and two members of An Garda Síochána. All three were among a large group of men who had contacted the young woman in the days leading up to her murder, asking about sex.
It wasn’t Belinda’s first visit to Dublin. Two months earlier, she had traveled over to earn money as a sex worker for 10 days. She told her parents she was visiting a friend and they had no reason not to believe her.
She had only been a sex worker for a year when she was murdered and had managed to keep her secret from her family.
She wasn’t used to a life of prostitution, Gardaí learned. She never worked on the street, which was common at the time as she felt it was safer to work from an apartment as her clients needed to make an appointment.
It was also noted that she did not work to support a drug or alcohol addiction. It seemed like she just wanted to make a quick buck and saw sex work as a short-term solution after losing her office job in London.
“Her parents were shocked when they found out about it. They came from Sri Lanka and moved to England in the 1960s to start a family and have a better life,” the source said. “It was a middle-class English upbringing that Belinda and her younger brother had at Wimbledon.”
Less than two years after Belinda’s murder, her parents moved back to Sri Lanka. Gardaí felt they blamed themselves for what had happened and wished they had never left their homeland.
Belinda’s pimp was a married man in his 30s from Monaghan living in Crumlin, Dublin. The fact that he was in the apartment with the body and involved in the exploitation of Belinda immediately made him suspicious.
The man was by no means a “significant” pimp. He had fewer than 10 wives working for him. But after extensive investigations into his background, some Gardaí involved in the case no longer believe he was the killer. He had nothing to gain, much to lose by murdering her.
Gardaí has interviewed all the other women who have worked for him and he has never shown any violence towards them. He also had an alibi for the time the pathologist determined Belinda was murdered.
The autopsy revealed that she died late on the night of December 28 while the pimp was drinking in a Crumlin pub. He was captured on CCTV footage outside the pub at 11pm.
However, he has been evasive throughout all his interactions with gardaí for fear he would face other criminal charges and will never be entirely ruled out as a suspect.
The man advertised Belinda’s services in In Dublin magazine, and from the moment she arrived at the Liffey Street brothel she was busy.
On Christmas Day, 35 men called and asked about their services. On St. Stephen’s Day, more than 40 calls were received on her cell phone. On the 27th there were nearly 50. On the day of her murder, between 70 and 80 men called her number.
Gardaí determined through phone records that Belinda was alive as of 10 p.m. on December 28. It is believed that she let someone into the apartment soon after, presumably after the buzzer sounded.
A little over 200 men called her. Gardaí tracked down all those who had visited them for sex, including their most recent visitor who is not a suspect. In 1996 everyone who had a mobile phone registered it, so it was a straightforward but time-consuming task.
The men came from all walks of life, the source said. All were asked and agreed to provide a DNA sample, but none could be linked to the killer’s putative DNA profile, which was found at the crime scene.
Gardaí also interviewed as many of the sex workers and pimps operating across Dublin that would speak to them.
One theory is that Belinda’s killer may have visited the apartment before. He could have returned without an appointment, pressed the buzzer and walked inside. However, investigations were hampered by the fact that the flat was not well monitored by CCTV and the murder weapon was never found despite extensive searches of the River Liffey. A Garda spokesman said the case is still open.
“The Garda investigation was comprehensive and we had numerous reviews of the case. We just never got the break we needed,” the source added.
“All that remains to be done is a re-examination by the Serious Crime Review Team – the Cold Case Unit. You’re looking at the du Plantier case. Why not Belinda next?”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/belinda-pereira-was-found-dead-in-dublin-six-days-after-sophie-toscan-du-plantier-why-do-so-few-remember-her-case-42317681.html Belinda Pereira was found dead in Dublin six days after Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Why do so few remember her case?