Scarlett Keeling trial: moment body was found
Trial of two local men accused of killing British teenager in Goa begins
Tuesday 06 April 2010
An Indian policeman told a Goan court yesterday of the moment he found the British teenager Scarlett Keeling's naked, battered body lying half-submerged in the sea.
More than two years after the teenager's death, the trial of two men accused of sexually assaulting and killing her began yesterday.
The trial, which has been described as a test of India's commitment to protecting tourists, is expected to last the rest of the year.
Scarlett's mother, Fiona MacKeown, 44, who fought a long campaign for an investigation after Indian police initially dismissed the death as an accident, was not present yesterday but is expected to give evidence later.
The 15-year-old from Devon was on a six-month holiday in India with her family when her body was found on the beach on 18 February 2008. Her mother, whose alternative lifestyle has come under intense scrutiny, had left her behind when she headed off to the neighbouring state of Karnataka with six of her siblings.
Yesterday police constable Gurunath Naik told the Goa Children's Court in Panaji how an anonymous call had come in to the police station reporting a body near the Shore bar, a popular rave spot on Anjuna beach.
The 29-year-old constable described how he found the naked body of a girl lying face down with the waves lapping around it.
"The eyes were partly open, the mouth was partly open too with froth, while orange-coloured slippers were lying two to three metres away from the body," he told the president of the court, BP Deshpande.
He dragged her out of the water and covered her with a sheet. Then he informed his superiors and waited for other officers to turn up.
Post-mortem examinations revealed that Scarlett was intoxicated by a cocktail of drink and drugs – ecstasy, cocaine and LSD – on the night she died and was attacked and raped. Her body was covered in bruises and the cause of death was asphyxia and drowning in sand and shallow water.
Challenged by the defence during cross-examination over discrepancies between his evidence and statements made earlier to Goa police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the constable said he had improved his reports on the instruction of the investigating officer. But CBI counsel SR Rivonkar told reporters after the hearing: "These are minor contradictions and are bound to happen."
Two local people, a bartender, Samson D'Souza, 30, and businessman Placido Carvalho, 42, are charged with culpable homicide, sexual assault, outraging modesty and destroying evidence.
Mr Rivonkar said statements would be heard from more than 70 witnesses, including Scarlett's boyfriend, Julio Lobo, and Ruby Caso, a Spanish friend who was with her hours before she died.
It is unknown whether Mrs MacKeown, who was cleared of negligence for leaving her teenage daughter alone, will give evidence in person or through video conferencing.
Last month, the mother of nine pleaded guilty to falsely claiming £19,000 in benefits and was warned she could face a custodial sentence.
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