Scarlett's mother in court, charged with negligence

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The mother of Scarlett Keeling, the British teenager raped and murdered in Goa, was due to appear before an Indian court today to answer a charge that she failed to provide for her daughter's safety by leaving her in the care of her local boyfriend while the rest of the family went travelling.

Fiona MacKeown was elsewhere in the region with her own boyfriend and six younger children when the 15-year-old's semi-naked body was found on a beach in the resort of Anjuna on 19 February. Scarlett had last been seen in a bar in the town.

Ms MacKeown, 43, of Bideford, Devon, has said she was naïve and over-trusting to have left her daughter with Julio Lobo, a 25-year-old Goan tour guide, and his two aunts while she was away. But she has always denied she failed to take care of her.

The Indian authorities yesterday issued her with a summons to appear on a charge of negligence for failing to provide a safe environment for Scarlett.

Goan police initially declared that Scarlett had drowned, but under pressure from Ms MacKeown, performed a second post-mortem examination which showed she had been attacked. Dozens of bruises were on Scarlett's body and tests revealed that she had taken a cocktail of drugs. Two men have now been arrested.

Ms MacKeown, who arrived in Goa with her family in November for a six-month holiday, has written to India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, expressing concern about the police handling of the case.

Kishan Kumar, inspector general of police in Goa, said Scarlett had been given ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and alcohol. The family's lawyer, Vikram Varma, said MPs were discussing the prospect of holding a parliamentary inquiry into the "drug mafia of which Scarlett was a victim". In an interview on GMTV yesterday, Ms MacKeown said: "I am very driven to get to the bottom [of this] and find out exactly the truth of what has happened to her, because there have been so many lies surrounding the situation."

At least 126 foreign nationals, 40 of them British, have died in Goa in the past two years, Inspector Kumar said.