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‘We were lied to’

world Updated: Sep 07, 2008 00:39 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Accusations of cover up in the Stephen Bennett murder — he was found hanging from a tree near the village Roha, on the outskirts of Mumbai two years ago — have suddenly surfaced.

The family of Stephen Bennett (40) from Cheltenham, who was killed while travelling from Goa to Mumbai, accused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of covering up for the Indian police rather than warning tourists of the dangers in Goa.

His girlfriend Kate Rea (28) has, according to a media report, claimed that the Foreign Office “misled and lied to his family.

She added that the Foreign Office withheld information showing that the Indian police investigation into his death failed to make any progress since January 2007.

The family also stated that the FCO minister had written to the Indian High Commission here on behalf of the family to find how the case was progressing. But the response of the High Commission was not revealed to them, which they had sought under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI).

FCO spokesman said the Bennetts were informed about the reply it received from the Indian High Commission.

He told HT, “They subsequently submitted FOI request for all correspondence between the FCO and the Indian High Commission concerning the Bennett case in January 2008.

“We released copies of the UK correspondence. Correspondence from the Indian High Commission was withheld under the FOI Act Section 31(1c) concerning the information that would be likely to prejudice the administration and justice. This was following consultations with the Indian High Commission who consider the matter to be sub judice and so objected to the release of the information.”

The sudden accusation of the cover-up, published in the Telegraph, however, is a bit perplexing as a case is pending in the court against men accused of allegedly murdering Stephen. It is true that his parents were very dissatisfied with the progress of the investigation.

When HT met them after about a month after the murder both Carol and Maureen Bennett said their son was an experienced traveller.

“At the time of his death, he was taking a holiday in Goa and he made a number of phone calls to us up until December 7. Following that we did not hear from him until the police contacted us on December 12 and told us of his death,” said Maureen.

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