Goa police have said that Facebook helped them get the first break in the case of the Irish woman’s rape and murder as the social networking site helped them identify the victim. “We have to say Facebook helped,” said police inspector Filomeno I Costa of Canacona Police station. The case, which was cracked in two hours and 40 minutes, came to the police on the morning of March 14.
The police control room was informed of a unclothed body in an open paddy field. While the first informer, a farmer and complainant in the case, only brought the police closer to the crime spot, her identity was unknown. Calls were made to all shack owners, people in the vicinity and the many informants on the beach strip between Agonda and Palolem.
“One British national said he might know her and was brought to the crime spot. With the face showing several scratch marks, identifying the body had become difficult,” Costa said. “The British national then recalled some common friends and started hunting for her photograph on Facebook, and finally after a few attempts zeroed in on her profile.”
A Facebook reference about a tattoo of three circles around the Irish’s girl’s right waist helped identify her. “We finally had a name. We rushed her details to immigration where we found her address and her passport details. The embassy lines were worked,” he said.
The police took a fresh photograph from her profile and went to the beach front. Several teams worked for an hour and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar called on the force and asked for “strict outlook” on the case. “It’s unfortunate. I called on them and asked to take a strict outlook,” Parrikar said.
According to Vimal Gupta, DIG, Goa Police, the “evidence had to be scientific. So they didn’t rely on the accused’s statement. Every minute evidence from the crime scene was sent for scientific inspection.”
Investigators have found that the Irish woman had come to India in 2016 and returned this year on February 23. She visited south Goa with an Australian friend on March 12. Having stayed with the friend, she left on March 13, and around 1 pm went alone to the Palolem beachside. “A waiter said he saw her with a local boy, then another woman from another locality confirmed. Calls came in from a shack owner, and finally someone mentioned Vikat Bhagat,” said Costa.
Bhagat has cases of thefts, robbery, house break-ins and drug peddling against him. “With such a criminal background, his confession cannot be seen as a complete probe,” said Gupta. Around 11am, a plainclothes policeman walked towards the door of Bhagat at Bhagatwada at Canacona to see if he was home. Once he confirmed it, a signal was passed. “He was sleeping in his house when we barged in. He was shocked. He remained stunned through his journey to the interrogation room,” Costa said.
According to the police, Bhagat’s narrative matched with the versions given by witnesses. Bhagat, who first met the victim in 2016, was seen between 2 pm and 9.30pm in two beach-front shacks. He confessed that when he tried to impose himself on her in an isolated spot off the highway leading to Agonda, she tried to escape. The police found injury marks on Bhagat’s thighs.