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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

1 convicted, 1 acquitted in British teen Scarlett murder case

Scarlett Keeling case: The court held Samson D’Souza guilty of all charges while another accused Plácido Carvalho was acquitted.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2019 23:25 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
Fiona MacKeown, mother of murdered British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling.
Fiona MacKeown, mother of murdered British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling.(AFP PHOTO.)
         

The Bombay high court at Goa on Wednesday convicted a beach shack worker of culpable homicide for drugging and sexually assaulting British teenager Scarlett Keeling, whom he left to die on the Anjuna beach in February 2008. The court acquitted a second man of the charges.

The court overturned the acquittal of Samson D’Souza, who was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sexual assault, drugging, sexual abuse of a child, and destruction of evidence.

The second accused, Placido Carvalho, was found not guilty of the same offences and his acquittal upheld.

“Samson D’Souza, we find you guilty of the offences of administering (stupefying) drugs, outraging the modesty, culpable homicide, disappearing evidence and child abuse,” ruled the bench comprising justices RD Dhanuka and Prithviraj Chavan, which will pronounce the sentence on Friday.

Keeling was found dead on the sands of Anjuna beach in February 2008, leading to a national and international media uproar. Goa Police initially sought to close the case as an instance of accidental drowning, but the case was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

After a trial lasting eight years, the Goa Children’s Court in 2016 acquitted both D’Souza and Carvalho, citing lack of direct evidence and lapses on the part of the prosecution. The CBI appealed against the verdict in 2017.

Lawyer Vikram Varma, who represented Scarlett’s mother Fiona MacKeown, said the death of the teenager had weighed heavily on her heart all these years. The kind of conduct D’Souza had exhibited in drugging, assaulting and causing the death of Scarlett was “not the conduct of a good citizen”, he said.

“It is predatory conduct,” he said, adding that the family was seeking a sentence that would serve as a deterrent to other criminals. “It is for the courts to decide with their wisdom and we have to respect that,” he said.

MacKeown fought an 11-year battle for justice and it was on her insistence and subsequent media uproar that Goa Police were forced to register the case as a criminal offence.The case resulted in the dismissal of a police inspector, Nerlon Albuquerque, as well as the suspension of the doctor who conducted the first autopsy that concluded the cause of death was accidental drowning.

D’Souza and Carvalho were last seen with Keeling at 5am at the Luis Beach Shack on Anjuna on the night of February 17, 2008. She was found dead a few hours later.

The CBI built a case that between 3.30 am to 5.30am, at Luis Shack, both the accused made Keeling, then aged 15 years and eight months, consume cocaine, ecstasy tablets and beer, with the intention of sexually assaulting her. The CBI also charged D’Souza with deliberately leaving her near the water line on the beach, knowing that she was fully intoxicated and may drown.

Advocate Cleofato Almeida Coutinho said that despite the Bombay high court overturning the acquittal granted by the lower court, the state has emerged worse from the entire episode. “It has taken 11 long years — eight years in the trial court and two-and-a-half years in the high court. This case will serve as a reminder of the incident that happened 11 years ago and will not help Goa’s case that it is a safe tourism destination,” Coutinho said.

First Published: Jul 17, 2019 17:42 IST

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