Mother of girl found dead in Goa accuses police of 'cover-up'

The mother of a British teenager has accused Indian police of "covering up" the death of her daughter, who she says was raped and murdered on a beach in Goa.

The body of Scarlett Keeling, 15, was discovered two weeks ago in the resort of Anjuna, a favourite destination for tourists and backpackers. The police initially said Scarlett had drowned, but Fiona MacKeown, the teenager's mother, says the results of post-mortem tests prove she suffered extensive injuries before she died and that her lungs were not full of saltwater, as is typically the case with people who drown in the sea. She said she had examined her daughter's body and found numerous injuries which an autopsy report suggests happened before Scarlett died. "They are lying. It's a cover-up," Ms MacKeown said. "They are lying through their teeth."

Mrs MacKeown, her daughter and other members of the family left their smallholding in Bideford, Devon, last November to travel to India. Keen body-boarders, they chose a location famed for its beaches and laid-back lifestyle next to the Arabian Sea.

Scarlett developed a relationship with a 25-year-old tour guide named Julio. Mrs MacKeown said she thought they were just friends but, having read Scarlett's diary after her death, she now knows the couple were having a sexual relationship.

At the time of Scarlett's death, Mrs MacKeown, her boyfriend and other family members had taken a trip to the Indian state of Karnataka, leaving her daughter in the care of Julio and thinking she would be staying at the guide's aunt's house. Scarlett was last seen alive on 18 February, entering a bar at around 2am with a friend called Ruby. Police say she was so intoxicated that she fell over. Her body was found on a beach at the water's edge the next morning.

Vikram Varma, a Supreme Court barrister engaged by Mrs MacKeown, said Scarlett's body had been found partially clothed and bearing a number of bruises on the shins and in the genital area. "These clearly indicate she was assaulted brutally," he said. Mr Varma said the family would produce further evidence today that would prove Scarlett had been murdered. A spokesman for the police team investigating Scarlett's death, said officers had not yet reached a conclusion on the circumstances of her death.

There has been a spate of incidents in Goa in the past 18 months in which Britons have ben victims of violence. In January, a British woman said she was raped in Goa's main town, Panjim. In January 2007 Denise Higgins from Oxfordshire was murdered in the south of the state, while in December 2006, the body of Steven Bennett, from Cheltenham, was found hanging from a tree after he went missing on a train travelling between Goa and Mumbai.