A visibly distraught Fiona MacKeown said on Friday that she was shocked. Moments ago, a Goa court had acquitted two men accused of drugging and sexually abusing her teenage daughter, Scarlett Eden Keeling.
“I was not expecting acquittal. I was expecting conviction. I will challenge the order,” MacKeown told reporters after Goa Children’s Court Judge Vandana Tendulkar let off Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho in the eight-year-old case.
Keeling’s family comes from Bideford in southwest England. She had been on vacation in India with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and her six siblings. Her family was traveling elsewhere in India when she died.
Police initially said Keeling drowned because she was drunk, but pressure from her family forced a second autopsy that indicated she was likely killed and may also have been raped.
After Keeling’s death in February 2008, MacKeown had lived in Anjuna for a couple of weeks trying to piece together the evidence in the case. She testified during the trial that she did not believe her daughter drowned because she was a good swimmer.
MacKeown alleged she knew that the Goa police were not interested to prosecute the killers of Scarlett, who was left to die on the Anjuna beach in Panaji.
“It took a huge effort for me to even get the police to register a complaint (in the case),” she said, recalling her struggle to get justice for her 15-year-old daughter.
“It is clear that they (investigating agencies) are either incompetent or corrupt. I don’t believe they are incompetent. And all I can say is that if any international tourist comes to Goa and gets murdered, they have no hope for justice in this system,” she said.
Mackeown claimed that medical evidence confirmed that her daughter was grievously assaulted, raped and murdered after some criminals gave her alcohol and cocaine.
Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar termed the judgment “unfortunate”, but said it will not hamper the image of the coastal state.
“I have just heard about the verdict, I have not gone through the entire judgment. I feel the outcome of the verdict is heartbreaking, it is very unfortunate. Unless, I go through the judgement I would not be in a position to detail my reaction,” he said.
“It is a heartbreaking judgment. In a beautiful state of Goa, this unfortunate incident had occurred about 7-8 years back. And today when the result has come out, I feel that such an outcome of the case needs to be challenged in the higher court,” he said.
But friends and relatives of the two accused cheered as the verdict was read out in a packed courtroom. The two men were allegedly seen drinking at a bar with Keeling the night she died were arrested and tried on charges of culpable homicide and sexual assault.
“I am very happy that I am acquitted and all the charges are false,” Carvalho said.
Dsouza added: “I am happy that justice prevailed.”
Vikram Verma, the victim’s lawyer, said, “They stand acquitted of all the charges and the judgment was not ready, it is being still typed that’s what the judge has informed. We will have to look into ingredients of the judgment.”