Did Goa's hippy image hinder justice for murdered Scarlett?



The case against the two men accused of killing Scarlett Keeling has ground to a virtual halt, with the handling of the case awash with claims of political interference.

Police in Goa initially declined to treat the matter as murder and were only obliged to conduct a second post-mortem after Ms MacKeown, clutching images of her daughter’s body that showed bruises above her eye, legs and shins, would not relent.

The case was eventually taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation but officers said there was insufficient evidence to charge the two men accused over her death with murder. Instead, Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho were charged with culpable homicide. Proceedings against the accused eventually got under way in 2010.

Since then, the trial, at the children’s court in the state capital, Panjim, has run into repeated difficulties and delays. The public prosecutor withdrew from the case two years ago, while defence lawyers demanded the appointment of a new judge.

Vikram Varma, Ms MacKeown’s lawyer, said: “It has been moving slowly. The defence has been trying to deflect the direction of the trial.” The lawyer said he believed “without doubt” that progress in the case had been hampered because of the way Ms Mackeown, who raised her children on state benefits, was perceived by the Goan authorities. Large parts of Goa and Anjuna Beach in particular, have long had a “hippy” image and attracted those pressing an alternative lifestyle.

The main witness to the case, British citizen Michael Mannion, has repeatedly offered to testify by video-link but does not want to return to Goa because he does not trust the authorities. Mr Mannion said he spoke with Scarlett and watched her leave Luis’s Bar on Anjuna Beach at around 5am. When he left a few moments later, he says he saw Samson D’Souza lying on top of the teenager.

“I always said I would do what is right for Fiona and Scarlett. I am still waiting to proceed,” he told The Independent this week.

Both Mr Varma and Mr Mannion drew a comparison between the handling of the case of the British teenager and that of the 23-year-old Indian student who was gang-raped and killed in Delhi. The government hastily established a commission to examine the issue of women’s safety, and within two months, five men and an juvenile have been brought before the courts. 

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