A British national, an accused in a 2017 human trafficking case, allegedly committed suicide in Goa last week. Police said the woman, Julie Warner, was depressed over the trial in her case not moving ahead and for not being able to return to the UK.
According to police, Warner, who was in her 40s, was found hanging from a banyan tree in Calangute late on Saturday (September 28).
Inspector Santosh Dessai of Saligao police station said it was only after police circulated her pictures that the owner of a lodge identified her. “The lodge owner told us that she had met him weeks ago to find a place to stay,” he said.
Dessai added, “We have spoken to a friend of the deceased, who told us that she was depressed.” The Goa Police has informed the British Nationals Assistance Office in Panaji and has kept Warner’s remains in a morgue.
Warner’s daughter Maisie Wales too wrote a post on Facebook saying her mother was suffering from mental illness, which had driven her to end her life. In the post, Wales, who is from Leeds, praised Warner as a “strong, amazing woman but she was caught in a very bad place and she couldn’t get out of it”. Wales has started a campaign on the online fund raising platform, gofundme, to bring her mother’s body home. In her plea seeking financial aid, Wales said her mother had recently become homeless after “experiencing some horrendous problems”.
She added, “She was alone in a foreign country with nowhere to go and no one to turn to and no way of returning home to the UK. She suffered mentally and saw no way out and making it better for herself. This led to my beautiful mum unfortunately deciding that she had to give up and ended her life.”
Warner was caught at the Mumbai international airport in March 2017 along with three British nationals — Captain Fivehats, Stuart Alan Quilliam and Dominic Oliver Bower — while allegedly helping four Sri Lankan nationals to illegally fly into the UK, using their identities.
The Bureau of Immigration also arrested the four Sri Lankan nationals, identified as Arunasalam Suthakaran, Kannathsan Karththeepan, Gajan Chandrabalan and Kaveenthini Kandasamy.
Of the accused, it was Kandasamy who first received bail after petitioning the Supreme Court.
Following her, the Bombay High Court granted bail to her compatriots. Earlier this year, the British nationals were also released on bail by the High Court.
The trial against the accused began late 2017 at the Sessions Court in Dindoshi. However, even as the immigration official, who is the complainant in the case, was being cross-examined, one of the Sri Lankan nationals moved the HC last year seeking the charge of human trafficking be dropped.
The HC ordered a stay on the trial and is yet to rule on the plea, said advocate Ajinkya Pokharkar, who was representing Warner in the trial.
However, in the meantime, after being released from Byculla Women’s Jail in March, Warner first stayed with her compatriots in Goa before finding shelter at Harvest India, an NGO working with marginalised communities in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh.
David Kathera, a medical student at the organsiation, recalled that Warner was a helpful person. “She was smiling and happy. She taught yoga to children and would always jump to help when we needed it,” he said.
Another accused, Karththeepan, who now works as a construction labourer in Chennai, said Warner was longing to go home.
“I had spoken to her a month ago about the case. It is quite possible that she was stressed,” he said. Karththeepan added that as a result of the trial being stuck in limbo, all the accused have been rendered homeless.
“I was working as a credit executive editor in Sri Lanka. My father sold everything to get me out of jail. Now I earn Rs 300 for a day’s work and don’t find work daily,” he said.
Advocate Dinesh Tiwari, who is representing the Sri Lankan nationals, said the foreigners have suffered due to the delay in the trial. “They have no means of support, shelter or income in India. They can also not go back to their families,” he said.