THE FATHER of tug-of-love Irish/Portuguese schoolgirl Ellie Silva has broken his silence to claim he took her from her mum out of love and desperation.
Filipe Silva insisted he had no regrets about his decision to risk kidnap charges and a 10-year jail sentence by refusing to return the eight-year-old after a summer holiday last year.
He boasted that the youngster was "happy" during the seven months tormented mother Candice Gannon was unable to see her daughter.
And, in an astonishing interview with a Portuguese TV station, he vowed to continue fighting for Ellie despite the country's courts awarding her mother custody.
Irish citizen Candice, 28, last night branded the interview "sickening".
She demanded police protection yesterday after reporting death threats at the safe house in Portugal where she is staying with husband Philip Gannon, their daughter Olivia, two, and Ellie.
Candice, currently seeking permission to take her daughter back to her home in Ballsbridge, Dublin, for a holiday, was reunited with Ellie on Tuesday at a children's home in the Algarve city of Faro.
The emotional reunion took place four days after Mr Silva was arrested and the day after his mother handed Ellie over to police in Porto, where she is thought to have spent most of the past seven months.
It was the first time Candice had seen her daughter since handing her over to her ex at Dublin Airport last July for a two-week holiday. Businessman Mr Silva, 34, was released on bail earlier this week but is still under official investigation on suspicion of kidnap.
He told the Portuguese television station TVi in a pre-arranged interview yesterday: "My actions were those of a desperate father, looking for the truth and the love of my daughter.
"I had information also that she was living abroad and my fear of not seeing my daughter again led me to take the decision to go and live with her in Porto."
He insisted he had no regrets about taking her from her mother, claiming: "When you act out of principle and values and love you never think of the consequences."
Speaking over a home-made video – which he gave the TV station – of his daughter dancing and singing with a friend to Will.i.am and Britney Spears's hit song Scream & Shout, he bragged: "She was always happy when she was with me."
Mr Silva allowed the TV station to broadcast photos and letters he claimed Ellie wrote to her mum – saying she loved her father – as well as a psychologist's report recommending the eight-year-old live with him.
He also accused his ex of upsetting the youngster by re-baptising her with her stepfather's surname without his knowledge, disrupting her education by moving her between schools and stopping her from learning Portuguese.
In a closing message to Candice, he vowed: "I will obviously continue to fight for my daughter."
The mother of two blasted the interview yesterday as immoral.
She said: "It defies belief that he can go on television after what he has done and blatantly lie like this."
Candice denied all his claims, stressing that her hope of relocating to Ireland with her ex's permission was partly motivated by health reasons and insisting she had never changed Ellie's surname on any of her official documents.
She added: "Decisions on Ellie's custody have been issued by the district court, the high court, the supreme court and the constitutional court.
"Are we to accept the opinions of an independent psychologist paid by Filipe Silva in favour of the courts' decisions? It should be noted Filipe Silva is still unmarried, has no other children and lives with his mother.
"He has told the court he can only afford to pay €50 per week in child support and is currently almost €10,000 in arrears.
"It is sickening he doesn't regret his actions over the past seven months.
"He needs to realise Ellie has a mum who loves her very much and vice versa.
"Why, after eight years, is he still trying to take Ellie away from her mother?
"The courts awarded custody of Ellie to her mum and he, like everybody else, must abide by the courts' decision."