Pictures back claim that girl was murdered

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The Independent Online

At Luis' beach bar, beers were being sunk gently as the last light of the day slipped away across the ocean. Orange lanterns hung from the coconut matting roof and a gentle jazz soundtrack spilt from the speakers. It would have been hard to imagine a more tranquil setting.

And yet it was on the ocean's edge in front of this bar that the naked body of the British teenager Scarlett Keeling was discovered two weeks ago. The police initially told the family that the 15-year-old had drowned but the mother insists her daughter was raped and murdered.

Autopsy photographs released for the first time yesterday and seen by The Independent certainly suggest that Scarlett had been beaten. The images show her head, legs and upper body with extensive bruising. The teenager's genital area similarly shows red marks.

"She was a normal teenage girl ... She made friends very easily," said Scarlett's mother, Fiona MacKeown. "She was happy to talk to people she did not know well." The family, from Bideford, Devon, say the independent-minded teenager was last seen alive as she left Luis' bar in the early hours of 18 February, possibly in the company of a man.

The family claim there is one witness – a British tourist apparently too scared to talk to the police – who told a friend that he saw Scarlett being sexually assaulted behind the bar sometime afterwards. Mrs MacKeown says she also discovered her daughter's underclothes and shoes near by. She claims those locals who know anything are too scared to speak out.

The family and their Indian lawyer also argue the conclusion of the post-mortem report's stated cause of death – that Scarlett died due to "drowning in the beach, sand waters" – is too ambiguous. They say the police have now agreed to their request for a second test.

The police say they are interviewing potential witnesses who may have seen Scarlett as she left the bar and insist they have not reached a conclusion as to whether she was killed, contrary to the family's claims. "Give us a few days to let us reach a conclusion whether it was an accident or a homicide death," said Bosco Jorge, the regional police superintendent. "Most of the people, we are treating as witnesses who she met and who she might have spoken to."

Mrs MacKeown, who has eight other children, took Scarlett to India last November as part of a family trip and they had spent many weeks at the resort, which is popular with backpackers. At the time of her death, Mrs MacKeown and her boyfriend were away from Anjuna and had left the teenager in the care of a local tour guide called Julio and his aunt. She said she believed her daughter and Julio were simply friends but having read her diary following her death she now knows they were having a sexual relationship.

Mrs MacKeown says she is aware many people will be critical of her decision to leave her daughter when she travelled out of state. "We felt we had got to know these people," she said. "We had been to their house and had dinner with the aunt. She was a strict Roman Catholic."

Officials in Goa are undoubtedly concerned about the negative impact the teenager's death will have if it is proved that she was murdered. But a straw poll of tourists in Anjuna – a resort that has long had a reputation for easy access to drugs – suggested most believed there was no more danger here than anywhere else. Abbie Smith, 35, from Taunton, said some tourists failed to use common sense when they were on holiday. "If you are more of an experienced traveller you adjust to local customs," she said. "You have to be a bit more aware."

Heather, from south Wales, who was sitting with two friends outside Luis' bar, said: "It's not good. That's all you can say but shit happens on your own doorstep."

Read Andrew Buncombe's Asian (con) Fusion blog at