A Goa court on Friday acquitted two local men accused of drugging, sexually abusing and murdering British teenage girl Scarlett Eden Keeling on Goa’s Anjuna beach in 2008. Goa Children’s Court Judge Vandana Tendulkar today acquitted Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges in the eight-year-long high profile death case. Both the accused had been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sexual abuse and drugging.
Victim’s mother Fiona Mackeown expressed shock at the verdict. “I am shocked. I was not expecting acquittal. I was expecting conviction. I will challenge the order,” Fiona told reporters outside the court hall.
Scarlett’s death in 2008 threw an uncomfortable spotlight on Goa’s pristine beaches and laid back lifestyle that have attracted foreign backpackers and tourists for decades. The case also grabbed international attention as British nationals used to be the largest number of tourists visiting Goa.
Initially, the state police had taken charge of the investigations and said Keeling drowned because she was drunk. But it was later handed over to the CBI after repeated pleas made by Scarlett’s family and a second autopsy was done that indicated Scarlett was likely killed and may have been raped too.
Fiona Mackeown, Scarlett’s mother, had said the the hardest thing for her was the way the government treated this case. In a statement, Fiona had said the government made it a lot more dramatic and didn’t treat the case properly. “They should have treated it as a murder straight away before the evidence was destroyed,” she said. She had also accused the previous government of being hand-in-glove with the police to hush up the case. In fact, Fiona’s lawyer, Vikram Varma, too had alleged that the shack where Keeling was drugged before being raped had been pulled down. Varma had also said that Keeling’s body organs were not preserved properly raising prospects that crucial evidence may have been damaged.
In the meantime, Fiona also could not ensure deposition of the crucial eyewitness Michael Mannion in the case. She said the prosecution really messed up to coordinate with him due to which his statement could not be recorded in court. In another statement, Fiona had said, “I tried to get hold of him (Mannion) before I came here. But I could not get hold of him. He did not even answer my calls or messages. I feel hopefully there would be some contact made and he might still be able to depose.”
She lamented the fact that the “kind of comfort and sense of security” which needs to be provided by prosecution to eyewitness was not there. Mannion, a British national, had told the police earlier that he had seen Scarlett being sexually abused by one of the accused.
Fiona, who is a farmer in UK, said her family still remembers Scarlett and a garden has been created in a corner of her four-and-a-half acres of land which she owns in North Devon (UK).
After the verdict today, Fiona, who initially thanked the CBI for taking over the investigations, accused them of being either incompetent or corrupt. In a statement to the media, MacKeown said, “I don’t have faith in the justice system here to give us justice, anymore. I had some hope in CBI but it is clear that either they are incompetent or corrupt and I believe they are not incompetent.”
“If international tourist comes to Goa and gets murdered, they have no hope for justice in this system,” she added.