“Thank you to all my friends and family for making home so special and always looking after me. I am very grateful and the luckiest person I know…Off on another adventure,” read the Facebook post of a 28-year-old Irish woman before she travelled to Goa where she was found dead on Tuesday. While the police have arrested 23-year-old Vikas Bhagat for the murder, the case has once again put Goa in the spotlight for it’s record of crime against foreigners. The incident is a stark reminder of the rape and murder case of Scarlett Keeling, in which the British teenager was found dead on Goa’s Anjuna Beach in 2008.
While the police are still waiting for post-mortem reports, preliminary probe suggests the victim was sexually assaulted before her death. Speaking to news agency IANS, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sammy Tavares said, “We have arrested Bhagat. He has confessed to raping the victim and later killing her in order to hide his identity.” The police also said Bhagat had a criminal record for being involved in cases of robbery and assault. “The body was lying in a pool of blood without clothes and there were injuries on the head and face,” Tavares said.
The case came to light when the victim’s unclothed body was found in a mangled state in the Devbagh fields in Canacona early on Tuesday morning. The family of the woman was then informed by the Irish Embassy which had been alerted by the Foreigner Regional Registration Office. According to preliminary investigation, the Irish national had visited India earlier in 2016 and this time around, she was staying in Arambol and reached Canacona for a two-day holiday party during Holi.
There have been multiple reports confirming that the Irish woman, who had been backpacking, visited a beach joint along with the accused at Palolem beach. The Herald Goa also reported an altercation between the duo and the bar owner at about 9.30 pm following which they left on a scooter. The report further claims the police found an Activa at the accused’s residence with blood stains on it. It also mentions that the deceased Irish woman’s backpack and clothes were found on a field not very far from the accused’s residence. Investigators are also analysing CCTV footage from the area to get more details on the case.
According to police, Bhagat had confessed that “in the night at some point he hit her with a bottle of beer and she collapsed”. “There is an assumption that he tried to impose himself on her and she may have resisted. His attack might have followed,” Vimal Gupta, DIG, Goa Police said. The investigators also found the victim’s clothes, phone and her bag which the accused had fled with in order to conceal the Irish woman’s identity.
Meanwhile, nearly 200 foreigners and locals expressed their sorrow by conducting a prayer and vigil at the crime scene on Wednesday. The victim’s family has also issued a statement expressing their grief and thanking everybody for their support. “She will be sadly missed by us all,” the statement read.
In a 2014 report by National Crime Records Bureau on Crime Against Foreigners, Goa stood second when it came to crime against foreign tourists. In 2014 alone, out of the 384 cases reported for crime against foreign tourists, 66 cases took place in Goa. “Among 486 cases of crime against foreigners, maximum cases were reported under thefts accounting for 53.5% (260 cases) followed by assault on foreign woman with intent to outrage her modesty (39 cases), rape, robbery & cheating (22 cases each) and forgery (21 cases) during 2014,” the report reads.
Though the police took less than 24 hours to nab the suspect in this case, the case has once again raised strong questions over the safety of foreigners in India.