A man has been convicted in relation to the death of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, more than 10 years after she was found dead on a beach in Goa.
Fiona MacKeown, Scarlett’s mother, who described the past 11 years as an absolute nightmare, said she was shocked but delighted.
“It’s still a bit hard to take it in, that this might actually be the end of it all for us,” she said. “It has been traumatic for the children every time I’ve had to go to Goa, and for me, it’s put me into huge debt. It’s been an absolute nightmare for 11 years.”
At a hearing on Wednesday, the high court in Goa reversed an earlier acquittal to convict of Samson d’Souza of culpable homicide, criminal assault and outraging a woman’s modesty, providing narcotics to a person with knowledge that it could cause serious harm or death, and destruction of evidence. He was also convicted under the Goa children’s code for not providing a safe environment for a child.
It is expected D’Souza will be sentenced on Friday or Saturday, when he could face decades in prison. A second man, Placido Carvalho, accused of abetting a crime, had his acquittal upheld.
Scarlett’s bruised and half-naked body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of Goa after a Valentine’s Day beach party.
Police initially said her death was an accidental drowning, but MacKeown insisted on a second autopsy. A postmortem examination showed there was ecstasy, cocaine and LSD in the teenager’s body. It also showed 50 cuts and bruises and evidence of sexual assault.
It was alleged that D’Souza plied her with drugs, raped her and left her unconscious face down on the beach.
Following D’Souza’s acquittal in 2016 on charges of rape and culpable homicide at Goa children’s court India’s Central Bureau of Investigation announced it would appeal against the judgment, stating that the judge had not “applied her judicial mind both on points of law and on facts of the case”.
The CBI also said the judge had wrongly concluded that there was a delay in recording witness statements.
The investigation into Scarlett’s murder was fraught with setbacks including years of delays in India’s sluggish justice system, a change of prosecutor and the failure of a key British witness to testify. MacKeown also accused the police of corruption.
Michael Mannion, a British witness, told police he had last seen the schoolgirl hours before, lying in the car park of nearby Lui’s Bar, with local bartender D’Souza lying on top of her. Mannion did not testify during the trial in 2016.
Scarlett’s murder attracted global media attention. MacKeown has faced intense scrutiny, including questions over her decision to allow her daughter to travel alone to Anjuna while the family toured further along the coast.
She has had to endure coverage of her daughter’s drug use and sex life, and close scrutiny of her own lifestyle. Scarlett’s death also became the subject of a Bollywood film, which was made without her mother’s consultation
Vikram Varma, MacKeown’s advocate, welcomed Wednesday’s verdict. “The children’s court acquitted him on all accounts, so here the high court has reversed the entire judgement of the child court in relation to D’Souza,” he said.
“It was a really tough case from day one … The most important thing is to get justice for this girl,” said Varma.
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