Police arrested a man on Wednesday on charges of raping and murdering a 28-year-old British-Irish woman on a popular Goa beach on Holi, the latest in a series of crimes that has blighted the picturesque state’s reputation as a tourist haven.
Deputy superintendent of police Sammy Tavares told HT a 23-year-old local criminal identified as Vikas Bhagat was arrested after locals reported seeing him with the tourist at the Palolem beach in south Goa on Holi, celebrated on Monday.
“He has confessed to raping the victim and later killing her in order to hide his identity,” Tavares said.
Several foreigners have died in Goa over the past decade or so, including 15-year-old British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling, whose bruised and semi-naked body was found in shallow water at Anjuna beach in 2008.
Last year, two men were cleared of rape charges, triggering outrage and shining a spotlight on the seedy side of a state that receives hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists every year.
Police said the tourist had come to Goa with a friend and celebrated Holi in coastal Canacona village, near Palolem. She was later found dead on Tuesday morning at an isolated spot on a beach in south Goa’s Devbag village, 80km from Panaji.
“The woman’s body was lying in a pool of blood without clothes and there were injuries to her head and face,” Tavares said. Suspecting rape, the police sent her body to the Goa Medical College for post-mortem. The report is still awaited. Although Bhagat confessed to the crime, the police are trying to find out if he had any accomplices.
The backpacker arrived in Goa on February 23 and was seen by locals to be celebrating Holi with friends at Palolem, the Daily Mail reported, adding that Bhagat told police he sexually assaulted her and smashed her face with a beer bottle so that no one would identify the tourist.
The suspect was arrested in 2014 in connection with a string of thefts in the area targeting foreigners, the newspaper said.
The Irish Independent reported that the woman lived in Liverpool and worked in a local bar but grew up in Ireland’s Buncrana in County Donegal.
In a brief statement, her mother said the family was “finding it very difficult at this trying time”. “She will be sadly missed by us all.”
A fund created by a friend to fund the repatriation of her body quickly raised more than 15,000 euros ($16,000). “Anyone who knew her knew that she was a beautiful and kind hearted, funny young lady who loved life and was a loyal and devoted friend, sister and daughter.”
(With agency inputs)