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India houseboat murder: 'Dutch man confesses to killing British woman in Kashmir'

Suspect was found fleeing the scene with just his passport

Police in Kashmir said that a Dutchmen being held over the frenzied stabbing to death of a young British woman tourist had confessed to the killing. They said they believed the man may have mental health issues.

Senior police official Syed Ashiq Bukhari said 43-year-old Richard de Wit had admitted killing Sarah Groves, a 24-year-old woman from Guernsey. Reports suggested she had suffered more than three-dozen stab wounds inflicted with a knife that was discovered lying next to her body.

“He has confessed his guilt. I believe he has psychiatric issues. It must be that,” he told The Independent.

Mr de Wit was detained by police early on Saturday morning after he fled from the New Beauty houseboat on Dal Lake, Srinagar, without his footwear or luggage and carrying just a passport. He was intercepted in a taxi in the town of Qazigund, a town 40 miles south of Srinagar.

The owner of the houseboat, Abdul Rahim Shoda, said 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. Mr Shoda and his family lived alongside the houseboat.

Ms Groves have travelled to Kashmir from Goa, where she had met one of the sons of Mr Shoda, Samir. According to a blog post by Ms Groves’s brother, Tom Groves, the couple had started a relationship and that she had gone to Kasmir as his “girlfriend”.

‘This is a rallying call. As people across the world will have seen by now, my sister Sarah Groves was tragically murdered last night in Kashmir,” wrote Mr Groves.

Mr Groves expressed his frustration that a member of his family had apparently been pressured by a reporter from The Sun newspaper [see item, 11 April 2013] and said the Foreign Office had offered no assistance, despite its claims. He wrote: “Firstly, this must be fully investigated and, secondly, this is not the appropriate time for government spin.”

On Saturday, Samir Shoda had been among those “helping” the police but officers said on Sunday that they had only sought his help as a witness. Mr Shoda said last night: “My family is not OK. She was like a daughter to my family.”

Police have not formally charged Mr de Wit and Mr Bukhari, the senior police officer, said they were awaiting the results of post-mortem tests that have been conducted on the body of Ms Groves. Police have also sent samples of Mr de Wit’s blood for testing amid reports that he may have taken drugs.

“As per the rules, we can question him for 60 days before we have to make a charge. We hope to do it quickly,” he said.

Mr Bukhari said police had spoken with both of Ms Groves’ parents. It is understood that at this stage, members of the family are not planning to travel to India.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Delhi said consular officials were liaising with the family of the murdered British woman.

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.

She had worked as a fitness instructor and had been employed in the gym of the Old Government House Hotel in St Peter Port for two years before leaving the island to travel in Asia.