Scarlett case: Verdict casts doubt on impartiality of probe

Last Updated 27 September 2016, 13:54 IST

 The Goa Childrens' Court, which last week acquitted two men in connection with the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, raised serious doubts about the impartiality of the probe in the case, noting it appeared to be monitored by the victim's mother and her lawyer.

The verdict, pronounced on September 23 by judge Vandana Tendulkar, noted that "the entire process of investigation is seen monitored by the mother of victim (Fiona MacKeown) and her advocate, at every stage, thereby creating serious doubt about the impartiality of the investigation."

Scarlett was found dead on the famous Anjuna beach of Goa on February 18, 2008.
Initially, Goa Police and later the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probed the case, which attracted international attention, besides raising questions on the safety of women in this world renowned tourist destination.

Two men –- Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho -- were chargesheeted by CBI in the case. The duo were accused of leaving the girl to die on the beach after drugging and sexually abusing her.

The court, in its order, noted that advocate representing the mother of the victim, had expressed doubts about the first autopsy in the case which had declared that the death was due to drowning.

"The second autopsy had taken five hours which ought to have been completed within two hours. For the meeting in the office of SP North Goa (after the second autopsy), Vikram Varma (the lawyer) was present," the verdict said.

The court also said that the possibility of the cause of death of the victim being accidental drowning, could not be ruled out in this case.

Quoting a medical witness, the court said the cause of death to the best of knowledge is due to drowning in beach and sand waters of a person intoxicated with alcohol and hypnotic drugs .

The verdict, which came almost eight years after the death of the 15-year-old girl, also said that there was a considerable delay on the part of Goa Police to record the statements of all the witnesses.

"Michael Mannion, the so-called eye witness of the prosecution, could not be examined despite several opportunities given to the prosecution and after considerable time consumed by the prosecution, firstly, to secure his presence and then to get his testimony recorded by means of video-conferencing," it said.

"Besides Michael, one more British person by name Charlie, was said to be present. But he was also not examined before the court," it said.

The verdict also said that after recording of the statements by Goa Police, CBI had recorded their statement once again in June 2008.

"In the circumstances, improvements in the versions of these witnesses are sufficient to create reasonable doubt about the case of prosecution, as claimed by Samson and the benefit of any such doubt would go to the accused persons," the court said.

The court also noted that the victim girl when she had entered the shack (on Anjuna beach) was "not normal" and she appeared as being under the influence of alcohol.

Citing a witness, it said that the victim was unable to talk properly and she was fumbling while talking when she sat in the kitchen (of the shack).

The judge also said that even assuming that Samson was last seen with the victim girl at around 4.30 AM, the body of the victim was found at around 6-6.30 PM after a gap of one-and-a-half hours.

"As such the accused cannot be directly linked with the death of the victim girl. There is no ocular evidence or any type of evidence to fill in the time gap of around one-and-a- half hours between the time when the victim was seen alive and the time when her dead body was found," the court said.

On Friday, the Goa court had acquitted Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges in the high-profile case leading to reactions of shock and disappointment from Scarlett's family and politicos in Goa.

Both the accused were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sexual abuse and drugging.

Goa Police was accused of trying to hush up the case after which it was transferred to CBI.

The police had initially dismissed it as a case of drowning, but later registered it as culpable homicide, after Fiona pressed for a second autopsy, which claimed that the girl was drugged and raped. CBI had filed its charge sheet in the case in 2009.

(Published 27 September 2016, 13:54 IST)

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