Goa minister linked with drugs mafia, Scarlett's mother claims

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The mother of murdered teenager Scarlett Keeling has accused Goa's police chief and a senior minister of being involved in a "nexus" with the drugs mafia that has led to a cover-up over her daughter's death.

In a statement, Fiona MacKeown expressed her affection for the ordinary people of Goa and said they did not deserve to live in an environment controlled "by a drug mafia under the protection of a few corrupt police officers and politicians".

Ms MacKeown's accusations came yesterday as she met police officers in the state capital of Panaji following a summons relating to Goa's child protection act. The officers informed her Scarlett's body can be returned, and Ms MacKeown is now hoping to take her back to the UK this week.

The partially clothed body of the 15-year-old from Bideford, Devon, was discovered a month ago at the popular resort of Anjuna. Police initially said Scarlett had accidentally drowned but her mother insisted she had been raped and murdered. Since that point, Ms MacKeown has repeatedly accused the police of covering up the circumstances of her daughter's death.

Yesterday she targeted the state's home minister, Ravi Naik, and the director general of police, BS Brar. "I had been informed that there is a strong nexus between drug mafia, Ravi Naik and the director general of Goa police BS Brar," she said. "The world is witness to their attempts to cover up Scarlett's murder."

Last week, police detained two local men on suspicion of raping and murdering Scarlett and said they believed they had all but "cracked" the case. Police said a barman, Samson d'Souza, had admitted sexually assaulting the teenager after he and another man, Placido Carvalho, had forced a cocktail of drugs upon her. It is alleged her unconscious body was left on the beach, where she subsequently drowned. Both men have been remanded in custody.

But Ms MacKeown and her lawyer, Vikram Varma, believe that police would not have covered up the crime if two such unimportant people were involved.

Mr Varma believes Ms MacKeown's summons was an attempt by officers to intimidate her, by raising the prospect that she might be investigated for negligence. Ms MacKeown was not in the state at the time of her daughter's death and had left her in the care of a local tour guide and his aunt.

In recent days Ms MacKeown's lifestyle – the mother of eight lives on a smallholding with no mains electricity or running water and she has a previous conviction from when she was 17 – has come under scrutiny by some parts of the press.

A family spokeswoman, Dakini Runningbear, said yesterday that a series of stories published by The Daily Mail came after Ms MacKeown turned down a £10,000 offer from that newspaper for an exclusive interview. She said Ms MacKeown had not wished to be barred from speaking to other media.

Last night, Mr Naik rejected Ms MacKeown's comments as "baseless" and said the police would get to the bottom of the matter. "They are good officers. We always protect our tourists," he said. Mr Brar could not be contacted.

The state's chief minister, Digambar Kamat, has turned down Ms MacKeown's request that federal investigators take over the case.