5 years gone, but still no closure in Scarlett case

Feb 23, 2013, 07:39 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Thanks to loss of evidence, witnesses who fear a threat to their lives and several procedural delays, the trial into the sensational rape and murder case is still dragging on

Mortal remains of Scarlett Keeling, whose death had rocked Goa nearly five years ago, found a final resting place in June last year. Her body is now buried in a garden outside her mother’s home in Bradworthy, North Devon, UK. However, closure is still a distant dream, with the trial still limping along at a sluggish pace.

The body of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, a native of North Devon, UK, was found on Goa’s popular Anjuna beach on Feb 18, 2008. The men allegedly responsible for her death are out on bail. File pic

Sources close to Scarlett’s mother Fiona Mackeown told MiD DAY from Goa that the coroner in UK waited long for a response from the CBI to allow Scarlett’s mortal remains to be handed over to her mother. Some time in middle of last year upon receipt of the no-objection letter from CBI, Scarlett’s remains, which had been preserved in the mortuary for over four-and-a-half years, were finally handed over to Fiona, and laid to rest on June 17, 2012 which happened to be Scarlett’s birthday. Also a jar containing the viscera (organs) that was collected during an autopsy at Goa Medical College, was also sent to Fiona.

The case
The body of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling was found on Goa’s Anjuna beach on February 18, 2008. The autopsy confirmed rape and concluded that the death was due to an overdose of drugs. The Goa police arrested three suspects — Placido Carvalho, Samson D’souza, the barman at a shack, and Julio Lobo, the local tour guide who struck up a relationship with the teen. These individuals are believed to have been with her hours before her death. Carvalho admitted to giving Scarlett drugs, raping her and leaving her on the beach. The accused were arrested and later released on bail.

Lost and gone
Though then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat announced that the case had been handed over to the CBI on March 27, 2008, the official handover was delayed by six weeks. In this time span, the wooden shack where Scarlett stayed disappeared; shack employees were nowhere to be found. Advocate Vikram Verma, who represents Fiona in the case in Goa, confirmed this.

While Goa police had initially booked the accused under Section 302 for murder and Section 376 for rape among other charges, the CBI in its chargesheet booked the accused under sections 304 (for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) 120 b (criminal conspiracy) and Section 8 of the Children Act, which was a major disappointment for Fiona.

Police sources said, “There was no direct or scientific evidence taken during the autopsy that could establish rape.” However, advocate Verma strongly asserted, “In the Delhi rape case, the Delhi police file the FIR, and are able to file the chargesheet before the fast track court within 17 days and the trial begins. The court frames the charges within three days and verdict is expected within 90 days. These standards have been set to handle a heinous crime against a woman and if the Delhi police can do it, why does the CBI have a different standard? We fail to understand why the political will is missing in the Scarlett case.”

The special CBI court has granted permission to CBI for a videoconference trial with prime prosecution witness Michael Mannion, a British national. Special CBI prosecutor Ejaz Khan will be leaving for UK soon. “According to the prosecution, Michael had seen Scarlett with the two accused Carvalho and D’souza on the night she was allegedly murdered. However he was scared to come to India and testify before the special CBI court,” said Verma. Attempts made to contact Fiona in UK did not yield any result. The matter is slated for hearing on February 25 at the Special CBI court in Goa.

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