Thirsty UK tourist asks for ‘agua’, but is sent to Rio’s Agua Santa favela where gang shoots her

‘Because of the language difficulties, there was some confusion’: police

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 9:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 8:33pm

A British woman has been shot and wounded in Brazil after she and her family were accidentally directed to a notorious favela neighbourhood because of a language mix-up.

They asked for directions to buy water, or “agua”, but instead were sent to the Agua Santa favela, which translates as Holy Water, local police said. The neighbourhood is home to a major prison and drug gangs.

Local media named the woman as Eloise Dixon, reportedly aged 46 and from Dartford, Kent. Local police said she had been holidaying with her husband and their three children at a popular coastal getaway destination, Angra dos Reis, about 140km from Rio de Janeiro.

The family, who are thought to live in Bromley, south London, had been on the main road from Rio to Santos but took a wrong turn on Sunday while looking for a place to buy water, and entered the favela in the northeast of Rio.

“They were confronted by criminals who ordered them to get out, and the car was hit by shots from a firearm,” said local police chief Bruno Gilaberte.

The family had apparently misinterpreted the information they were given about where they could find a place to buy water. “Because of the language difficulties, there was some confusion. They ended up going to the Agua Santa neighbourhood where they were targeted by criminals. They were shot at after failing to understand the order they were given to leave the area,” said Gilaberte.

Dixon’s husband, who was driving, returned to the main road after the shooting and kept driving until reaching a highway police post where the victim was rushed to hospital.

“The woman underwent surgery in the Angra dos Reis hospital and was in a stable condition,” Gilaberte said.

“The bullet went through the whole abdomen but by luck didn’t hit major arteries or important organs. She was really lucky,” local hospital director Rodrigo Mucheli said on Globo television.

Television footage of their rental car showed one bullet hit a front tyre, another the front passenger door and a third the headrest where the woman was sitting.

The Rio area has many favelas, which house communities of working-class Brazilians. Some are seen as no-go areas and are reportedly controlled by criminals.

Vinicius Barbosa, deputy chief executive of the Angra dos Reis government, condemned the authorities’ lack of control over high-crime areas “where you can’t go in, where the media can’t go in, where services can’t go in – this is intolerable.”.

The Agua Santa neighbourhood is home to drugs traffickers belonging to a Rio de Janeiro-based criminal organisation called Terceiro Comando Puro.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in touch with the local authorities in Angra dos Reis, Brazil, following reports of the shooting of a British national.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse