November 06, 2012

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Police say the younger sister of Brazil striker Hulk has returned home unhurt a day after being kidnapped.

Authorities say 22-year-old Angelica Aparecida Vieira was released a few hundred meters from her house early Tuesday afternoon in the northeastern city of Campina Grande.

Vieira had been missing since Monday but police weren't sure whether it was a kidnapping case. Investigator Marcos Paulo told The Associated Press that Vieira confirmed she had been abducted, but the family denied paying a ransom. No arrests had been immediately made.

Paulo said authorities still had to finalize their investigation before confirming it was a kidnapping. Vieira talked to police for about two hours after returning home.

"She told us that she was abducted but wasn't hurt, that's what is important,'' he said. "We are continuing our investigation to understand exactly what happened. If it was indeed a kidnapping, as it seems it was, we have to work to find those responsible for it.''

Vieira went missing after being left in front of a restaurant in Campina Grande. A person who was with her at the time told police that he thought she was kidnapped, but there were no witnesses.

Family members said she had not made contact until being released and had asked police to stay away from the case, for her safety.

Hulk, who plays for Zenit St. Petersburg, had been advised by police to stay in Russia and was not expected to return to Brazil after news his sister was safe.

The 26-year-old striker moved from FC Porto to Zenit in September in a deal reportedly worth ?55 million, becoming one of the highest ever transfers for a Brazilian player. Hulk has six other sisters and, like many of Brazil's top players, came from a relatively poor family that was able to significantly improve their circumstances after he became a well-paid player in European football.

He was in the squad selected for Brazil's friendly against Colombia on Nov. 14 in the United States, but was expected to drop out after being injured while playing for Zenit at the weekend.

It's not the first time a relative of a famous Brazilian player has been kidnapped.

In 1994, Romario's father was abducted and spent seven days in captivity before being released unhurt.

Striker Robinho's mother was kidnapped for more than a month in 2004, while Luis Fabiano's mother spent several weeks being held against her will a year later. Also in 2005, the mother of former Brazil striker Grafite was taken by criminals and found the following day. The sister of former Real Betis forward Ricardo Oliveira was kidnapped for several months in 2006.

None of them were hurt.

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