Another tragedy in backpackers' haven as Briton dies of suspected drug overdose

There was little left to show of a life cut short in a £2-a-night hotel room just a stone's throw from paradise. There were some old T-shirts, a handful of undeveloped films and a battered journal filled with jottings and sketches. The rest of Michael Harvey's belongings had been taken away by police looking for clues.

Mr Harvey, 34, from Manchester, was found dead in his room at Laura's Guesthouse in the Goan resort of Ashwem Beach on Saturday morning, having checked in the night before, sweating heavily and "appearing drunk or something", according to the owner. A postmortem examination concluded Mr Harvey died from a pulmonary and cerebral oedema and police are now investigating whether a drug overdose was the cause.

Mr Harvey was the second British citizen to die in the past fortnight in Goa, a tropical playground that has long been favoured by European tourists for its beguiling landscape and easy-going lifestyle. But many believe Goa also has a darker, more dangerous edge, both as a result of tourists failing to take basic safety measures and a seedy drugs culture that permeates many of its resorts. In 2007, 40 Britons died here from natural and unnatural causes, while there have been 10 deaths so far this year, according to the British consulate in Mumbai.

"Goa is a very safe place, there is no doubt," the state's chief minister, Digambar Kamat, said. "But there are some stray incidents that we are trying to avoid. The tourists come here to enjoy themselves but they should also be a little careful."

Yesterday, Mr Kamat met the mother of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, the other British tourist to be killed here. Her family insist she was raped and murdered two weeks ago on Anjuna Beach, about half an hour south from where Mr Harvey's body was found, and that the local police are covering it up. Mr Kamat promised Scarlett's mother, Fiona MacKeown, that there would be a full investigation into the teenager's death and that if any foul play was discovered, the authorities would get to "the root of it".

The family said they were hopeful after their meeting and that Mr Kamat's attitude appeared to have changed since he confronted Mrs MacKeown on a news programme the previous evening and appeared to blame tourists for many of the crimes. "It went very well, it felt like he listened," said the family spokeswoman Dakini Runningbear.

While millions of tourists travel to Goa each year, the coming together of Indian and European culture is not always easy. Foreign women sunbathe topless on the beaches, drug- and drink-fuelled parties roar on into the night and tourists overrun the narrow roads on scooters which they drive without helmets or shoes. Common sense and cultural sensitivity are not always priorities. "I think the Goans are horrified by us," said a Scottish woman who has been coming to Anjuna for years, and has local friends. "If they didn't need to do business with us they would not."

John Fernandes, the owner of Laura's Guesthouse, said he had seen the state change tremendously in the past decade. "Lots of foreigners are coming in," he said. "The [locals] want them to come."

Yet when foreigners do fall through the cracks or else fall prey to some of Goa's more illicit offerings, many people say the police do little to help. It has long been alleged that tourists caught with a small amount of drugs might be forced by police to pay a bribe – either financial or sexual – to avoid criminal charges.

Amanda Bennett, whose brother Stephen, from Cheltenham, was found hanging from a mango tree after he disappeared from a train travelling between Goa and Mumbai in December 2006, has accused the police here of repeatedly lying to her over his death. She said they had even refused to let her formally lodge a First Information Report (FIR) to make them launch a criminal investigation. "The police refuse to allow it despite a continued effort from my family," she said.

In the case of Mr Harvey, who was due to return to Britain in less than two weeks, police are adamant there is no evidence of foul play. But Police Superintendent Bosco George said they were investigating whether drugs played a role in his death. "We will take everything into consideration," he said. "It is quite possible he did have some drugs."

Loui Vangelder, from Liverpool, who occupied a room next to Mr Harvey at Laura's Guesthouse, said he believed the fellow Briton had fallen foul of the darker side of Goa. Just a few weeks ago, he said, a Russian friend addicted to drugs had died in hospital from blood poisoning. He said the hospital had shown little interest in his friend's condition when they realised he was addicted to drugs.

Mr Vangelder, who spends each winter in India, said he was outside his room when Mr Harvey checked in on Friday evening and that he was sweating profusely. He added: "I'm from Liverpool. I see these people all the time... He was another Goan train-wreck."

Andrew Buncombe's Asian (con)Fusion at:

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn