Maureen Bennett’s eyes well up as she recalls the last phone calls her son Stephen made to her from Goa last December. Days later, his body was found hanging from a tree in Malsai village in Roha Taluka, 110 km from Mumbai. It has been over a month since then, but the family is still seeking closure.
Maureen argues that Stephen, who was in India on a holiday, was murdered by men stalking him since his stay in Goa.
Maureen and Stephen’s father Carol (they refuse to be photographed) live in a well-furnished house in an upmarket part of Leckhampton, and appear to belong to the typical mid-England upper-crust gentry — well-dressed, polite and anxious to sound and appear correct.
They question the police findings and are determined to get to the truth. “We want to know what happened to Stephen. We do not believe he was murdered for behaving indecently with a villager,” Maureen says.
She is keen that the Goa police get involved in the investigation. “The police in Roha are not interested in the investigation. They have not looked into the threats my son was receiving in Goa.”
Stephen’s parents and his sister Amanda Bennett-Merritt are also upset that the Indian police have not bothered to contact them so far.
Maureen also debunks the initial theory that Stephen had committed suicide because “we had phone calls from him that he was afraid he would be killed”. She said Stephen had also called to say that that two men were tailing him.
The Bennetts have always maintained that Stephen was kidnapped from Baga and managed to escape in Panaji. They asked him to check into a hotel there and he was abducted when he went back to Baga to get his bags, which had his passport and money.
Stephen had told them he wanted to go to Mumbai and had asked a taxi driver how much it would cost. He found out that it would cost the equivalent of £100 (Rs 8,600) and told his parents he would call back in half an hour. That call, Maureen says, never came.
The family plans to come to India after Stephen’s funeral — which will be held in a few days — to try and find out for itself how he died.