Eight years after her daughter found dead in Goa, British national Fiona Mackeown says she would never dare to holiday in the coastal state again though she would love to explore rest of India as a tourist. “I won’t feel like coming on a holiday now. I am not feeling safe at this moment. May be other parts of India, I can visit. It is because of the case is here, and initially state government tried to hush-up the case…I would probably come for a holiday, not in Goa but somewhere else in India,” Fiona told PTI.
She is here to witness the final arguments on chargesheet filed in the Scarlett Keeling case before Goa Children’s Court in Panaji. The arguments would be heard this week.
Two locals, Placido Carvalho and Samson Fernandes, were charged for drugging and leaving the British teenager to die on Anjuna coast in year 2008. Scarlett’s semi-nude and bruised body was found on the shore. The case had grabbed international attention as British citizens used to be the largest number of tourists visiting Goa. Fiona hopes that justice, though delayed, would be done by the court after the final arguments.
“I do hope that justice would be done. I would ideally expect that both of them (the accused) would be charged for murder because I believe she was murdered, but the charges that they have imposed of culpable homicide still is a good enough punishment,” she said.
The case, initially investigated by state police, was later handed over to CBI on repeated pleas made by Scarlett’s family. Fiona said the hardest thing for her was the way the government treated this case.
“They made it lot more dramatic. They didn’t treat it properly, they should have treated it as a murder straight away before the evidence was destroyed,” she said. Fiona accused the previous government of supporting police to hush up the case initially.
“It is not just initially, but they carried it on until we demanded second autopsy. If that had not happened, they would have kept it as an accident. I was very lucky to come across Vikram Varma (Supreme Court lawyer who campaigned for justice to Scarlett). I had no idea about law in India.
“Other people who have landed here in Goa and died, their families are desperate…there is no justice of any kind, they don’t even have FIR filed. So that way I considered myself as lucky,” she added. Fiona feels things were expected to be different in Goa after the new government took over in 2012.
“The government has changed now, and I do think it’s different. I don’t think this government is same as the last government, particularly the Congress government that was very corrupt.
“I don’t have any dealing with this government over this case but the way case is proceeding in court, I don’t feel that this government is trying to cover up. It’s decision of the court that will decide whether this government really diverted its energy to give justice or not. I feel like, I have to trust this government. I could not just believe that I am not going to get anything,” Fiona said.
On inability of prosecution to ensure deposition of the crucial eyewitness Michael Mannion, a British national, Fiona said the prosecution really messed up to coordinate with him due to which his statement could not be recorded in court. “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 said.
Fiona said the “kind of comfort and sense of security” which needs to be provided by prosecution to eyewitness was not there.”They (prosecution) arm-twisted him (Mannion). He was sent summons through Scotland Yard. Without his knowledge, they fixed date for video conferencing. It was really a very bad mess up while coordinating with him,” she said.
In his statement to police earlier, Mannion had claimed that he had seen Scarlett being sexually abused by one of the accused. Fiona, a farmer back home 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). “Life without Scarlett has been very difficult. We still miss her. My children still talk about her,” she said.