· Former street child is arrested for deadly attack
Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Thursday March 1, 2007
Appalled by reports of death squads exterminating street children in the beachside city, she set her sights on the favelas of Rio. Yet this week, after nearly a decade dedicated to the children of South America, she met the most ghoulish end imaginable - hacked to death with kitchen knives at her Copacabana home alongside her husband and another colleague, apparently by one of the street children she had tried to save.
Ms Douyère first became interested in Rio following 1993’s "Candelaria Massacre" - one of the grimmest chapters of Rio’s recent history, when off-duty policemen gunned down eight street children as they slept.
At the time she was working with street kids in Mexico. "They asked her: Delphine, how can there be a country where the police go around killing children? Why don’t you go there and find out and try and help them?" said Marie Depalle, a close friend who works at the French consulate in Rio.
Over the coming years Ms Douyère increasingly dedicated herself to Brazil. In 1999 she completed her doctorate at the Paris VII University. Entitled Street Children of Rio de Janeiro and Non-Governmental Organisations, her dissertation looked at the plight of Rio’s street kids and the attempts to save them.
In 2000 she moved permanently to Rio de Janeiro and began working on a series of projects, including a non-governmental organisation called Terr’Ativa (Active Land), which sought to encourage sport as an alternative to the gangs.
Most of Ms Douyère’s work was in Rio’s cocaine-infested favelas, where she founded a series of projects intended to lure young people away from drugs and out of poverty.
In the Morro dos Prazeres - a notorious slum in Santa Teresa, a hilltop district popular with tourists - she set up a fashion school called Changing the Wardrobe. In the Morro do Fuba shantytown - where in 2002 Brazilian police located a series of clandestine cemeteries - there was a football project, sponsored by the Brazilian national team midfielder Juninho Pernambucano.
"She went wherever she felt she was needed," said Ms Depalle. "It was always difficult work but she wasn’t afraid. She was a simple person: faithful, kind, generous and happy."
One of her greatest success stories was Tarsio Wilson Ramires, a 25-year-old former street kid she met in the late 1990s and employed at her Copacabana-based NGO.
According to police, Ms Douyère recently discovered that Mr Ramires had stolen around R$80,000 (£20,000) from the project’s coffers. Fearful of being discovered, police believe he hired two men to help him kill the French aid workers.
Francisco de Moura, a doorman at the building where she lived and died, said Ms Douyère had recently argued with him after he refused to let a group of former street children into the building. She gave instructions for all visitors to be allowed to enter - whether they were street children or foreign diplomats.
Early on Tuesday morning, when two strangers appeared at the reception area alongside Mr Ramires, they were allowed in almost immediately.
"He arrived at the building with two other guys," said Ronaldo Gomes, a doorman who was on duty at the time of the killings. "I asked them to identify themselves and he said that they were with him and were coming to fix the computer.
"A few minutes later the residents started complaining to me that there was lots of noise and shouting coming from the apartment. I went up to see what was going on and he said everything was OK."
It was not. When Mr Gomes returned to the third-floor office with police a few minutes later he came across a scene from hell. Blood had been sprayed across the walls and Ms Douyère lay dead alongside her husband, Christian Doupes, and their friend and colleague, Jérôme Faure, 38. Two of the victims had been virtually decapitated by their assailants, who wore carnival masks to hide their faces.
Upstairs on the 10th floor, Ms Douyère’s two-year-old son, Max, played with his nanny, unaware of what had happened. "To see three good people killed in that way and an orphaned child was just too much," said Mr Gomes.
"We all heard the shouts but we thought it was a row between her and her husband," said Eliane Santos, who works in the florists across the road and regularly sold flowers to her French neighbours. "These people have to pay. They should be chopped up and killed just like they did."
Ms Douyère’s parents are expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro this weekend to pick up their orphaned grandson and the body of their daughter.
"They were people who helped others," Joseph Doupes, 68, Ms Douyère’s father-in-law, told one newspaper. "I just don’t understand this."