Police in Kashmir have launched a murder investigation after the blood-spattered body of a young British woman was found in a houseboat. She had reportedly been stabbed several times.
Officers were last night questioning a Dutch tourist who had also been staying on the New Beauty houseboat on Dal Lake, Srinagar, and who fled the scene in the early hours, taking only his passport. One of the sons of the owner of the houseboat was last night also helping officers. Neither man has been charged.
Police were apparently alerted early yesterday morning by the houseboat's owner after he found the woman's body in her bedroom. Police identified the victim as 24-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Groves, whose family is from Guernsey, and the Dutch tourist as Richard de Wit, 43. British officials said the victim's next of kin had been informed.
Ms Groves, a former pupil at the Catholic St Mary's boarding school in Ascot and a friend of Princess Beatrice, was born in Manchester but later moved to Guernsey with her family. Her businessman father, Victor Groves, 69, declined to speak about his daughter's death yesterday. Mr Groves, who lives in Guernsey with his wife, Kate, 66, said: "I think it's just too soon for us to gather our thoughts."
A schoolfriend from her time at St Mary's told The Independent on Sunday last night: "She was a caring, beautiful girl, the real light of her family. They will be devastated. She would see the best in people, always. She just cared, she was a vegetarian and she would go around and say things like 'life is beautiful'. There was an innocence to her. At school, she was always drawing, she'd always have a pad with her, She was the most talented at art in our year, and after we left she went to the Chelsea School of Art and had exhibitions in London. She must have thought she had the whole of her life to explore her talents. We'll never be able to come to terms with how somebody could do this to somebody so loving." Ms Groves had two brothers
The houseboat's owner, Abdul Rahim Shoda, told The IoS that Ms Groves had been staying there for the past two months. He also said the Dutch tourist took an adjoining room on the boat three days ago.
"This morning my wife got up at 5am and shouted to me to go out and buy bread. I could see that the door of the houseboat was already open," said Mr Shoda, who stays alongside the houseboat and noticed that his rowing boat was missing. "I went into the houseboat. He was not there. Then I saw Sarah. There was blood all over her body. My son took her to the hospital."
Mr Shoda said that he was able to track the movements of the Dutch tourist by calling the taxi stand at the tourist office in Srinagar and asking if anyone had given a lift to him. He was told that a tall man without any shoes and with no luggage had taken a Jeep to Jammu.
The police were able to trace the registration number of the taxi, and the Dutch tourist was intercepted near the town of Qazigund, around 40 miles south of Srinagar, and the half-way point to Jammu. "He has been detained and his questioning is going on," police said.
Police are now awaiting the victim's post-mortem examination results. Mr Shoba's son, Samir, was last night also still helping the police. Speaking by phone from the police station, he said that Ms Groves had travelled to Kashmir from Goa. He declined to comment on who had recommended the houseboat to her. "We're all feeling pretty bad right now," he said.
Mr Shoda said that he had last seen Ms Groves on Friday evening when he had taken a hot water bottle to her room. "She loved my family, my wife, my children and my mother," he said. "She was not like a tourist. She was a member of the family."