Court to rule on 2008 British schoolgirl’s death
AN Indian judge will finally deliver a verdict tomorrow on two men over the rape and death of British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling in Goa in 2008, after years of delays and controversy.
Fifteen-year-old Keeling’s bruised and half-naked body was found on popular Anjuna Beach in the Indian resort state eight years ago.
Her death made headlines worldwide, drawing attention to the dark side of a tourist destination that has long been a hangout for Western hippies and later highlighting India’s sluggish justice system.
Police dismissed the teenager’s death as an accident but opened a murder probe after Keeling’s mother, Fiona MacKeown, pushed for a second autopsy which proved she had been drugged and raped.
Several weeks after the attack, local men Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho were arrested and charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using force to outrage a woman’s modesty and administering drugs with intent to harm.
The move angered the victim’s family who had wanted the defendants tried for rape and murder, but officers from India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said they lacked sufficient evidence to indict them on stronger charges.
The trial began at a children’s court in Goa’s state capital Panaji in 2010 but has been plagued by numerous delays, including infrequent hearings due to a backlog of cases and a public prosecutor withdrawing from proceedings.
Final arguments were heard at the end of last month with the prosecutor arguing that dozens of bruises on Keeling’s body were evidence of a struggle. Defence lawyers, however, said her death was accidental.
Ms MacKeown was only able to bury her daughter’s body more than two years after the murder, when it was finally returned to her by authorities after a long bureaucratic wrangle.
Fiona Mackeown has persisted in her quest for justice.