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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Body on Goa beach: cops say drowned; kin allege murder, demand probe

The woman’s family members, villagers, activists and political workers also joined in the demonstration.

By: Express News Service | Panaji |
Updated: August 17, 2021 6:11:01 am
A demonstration in Aldona area of Goa on Monday. (Express Photo)

Hundreds gathered in north Goa’s Aldona on Monday for a candle light vigil demanding justice for a 19-year-old woman who was found dead on Calangute beach on August 12.

The woman’s family members, villagers, activists and political workers also joined in the demonstration – that was called as an apolitical one. While the Goa police had said that sexual assault or violence was ruled out following a post-mortem report that indicated that the woman may have died due to drowning, most who turned up in Aldona on Monday evening demanded an explanation for why the woman’s body was found semi-clad.

“We have reason to think that this was a case of murder. If it was a case of drowning, why would all her clothes not be on the body? Even the rubber-bands in her hair were intact but why would the clothes not be if she had, in fact, died of drowning?” said the woman’s uncle.

On Monday, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who holds the Home portfolio, said that the investigation in the case was progressing as expected. He said that along with the Mapusa police station, officers of the Goa Police Crime Branch would also weigh in on the investigation.

The body of the 19-year-old was found on Calangute beach on August 12, a day after she was reported missing by her family. According to Goa police, a post mortem revealed that there was no indication of sexual assault or violence and the woman had died due to drowning.

The woman, a resident North Goa, was last seen at Mapusa bus stand where her father had dropped her to go to work. North Goa Superintendent of Police, Shobhit Saksena, had earlier said that the police was informed about the body by a passerby, a little past 6 am on August 12.

On Monday evening, however, protesters who came out in support of the woman demanded a rigorous probe and many said that the case reminded them of the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling in 2008 that was first recorded as a death by drowning. In 2019, the Bombay High Court sentenced Samson D’souza to ten years in prison for culpable homicide, drugging and sexually assaulting Keeling.

Sabina Martins of Bailancho Saad, a women’s collective, who attended the candle light vigil, said, “When the girl was reported missing, there should have been quick action. The family would have filed a missing complaint after exhausting their search. And it is very unlikely that a girl will take her clothes off and die by drowning or suicide. This needs to be investigated properly. Calangute is a tourist area, the hotels, roads have CCTV cameras, it should all be thoroughly investigated.”

She said that the case of unnatural death was registered but alleged that several times, cases of serious offences are not registered because they bring ignominy to the state.

Police sources said that the woman, who worked at a fast-food chain, had recovered from Covid-19 a month ago but was afraid to go back to work since her recovery. She had told her family members that she felt her health would worsen if she stepped out of her house again, sources said. According to the police sources, a bus conducted had seen her last at the Mapusa bus stand and told the police that she appeared, “disturbed”.

Political barbs were also fired by many participating in the demonstration on Monday, accusing Sawant and his government of being “irresponsible” and failing to check the rising crimes against women. The woman’s death came within a month of the gangrape of two minor girls in Benaulim and two others rape cases reported in Ponda and Quepem in July.

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