How a pair of orange slippers led to accused’s conviction in Scarlett Keeling case
The pair of slippers was found next to Scarlett’s body when the police arrived at the scene of crime. He had asked waiter Chandru Chavan to get the slippers which raised the court’s suspicion.Updated: Jul 23, 2019 12:39 IST
A pair of orange slippers that the accused left behind as he hurriedly abandoned British teenager Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach proved to be a crucial piece of the missing puzzle, in an 11-year-old case largely based on circumstantial evidence.
The High Court of Bombay at Goa had last week sentenced Samson D’Souza to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined him Rs. 2.6 lakh for the death of Scarlett Keeling, whom he drugged and sexually assaulted before leaving her to die on the Anjuna beach. Scarlett Keeling’s semi-naked and lifeless body was found lying on the beach at 6.30am on February 17, 2008, barely two hours after the 15-year-old was seen with D’Souza and Placido Carvalho. Carvalho was acquitted.
Beach shack worker D’Souza had pleaded not guilty to the charges. The 39-year-old said it was a false case slapped against him and that he has been wrongly framed but adduced no evidence to defend himself. Speaking on his behalf, a representative of his legal team has said they would be challenging the order in the Supreme Court.
Two to three metres away from where her body was found, lay a pair of orange slippers that constable Gurunath Naik, the first policeman to arrive on the scene, noticed. He made a note of their presence in the panchnama or the record of witness’ statements but didn’t think they had anything to do with Keeling’s death and left them behind. As many as four witnesses testified to have seen those slippers next to the teenager’s body.
The slippers lay in the sand even after Scarlett Keeling’s body was taken for a post mortem examination until D’Souza arrived back at the shack in the evening and began asking if anyone had seen his footwear, which he claimed to have misplaced the previous night.
“When shack owner Luis Coutinho asked Samson how his orange chappals were found near the spot where the dead body was noticed, Samson is said to have replied that during last night he was searching for the said chappals but could not find it which necessarily means those were his chappals when he was with the victim,” the High Court noted.
Shack waiter Chandru Chavan, who had testified he had seen the slippers lying next to the body and also saw the police constable place them by the side of the deck bed, told D’Souza where his footwear was.
However, instead of going and collecting them himself, D’Souza asked Chavan to go and pick them up and bring them to him, a request he refused.
Chavan testified that when he asked shack owner Coutinho whether he could leave for the day, his boss asked him to seek Samson’s permission. Samson said that he would allow him to go only if he brings his slippers. He then brought the orange slippers and gave it to D’Souza who took them in a plastic bag.
That was the last that was seen of the slippers.
“In the normal course, Samson could have lifted his orange chappals (himself), however, this fact indicates his mental state. The feeling of guilt can be said to have resulted in such strange behaviour. The unusual and strange post crime conduct of Samson clearly manifests his complicity in the crime to cause the evidence to disappear with an obvious intention to screen himself from legal punishment,” the High Court bench of justice RD Dhanuka and justice Prithviraj Chavan ruled.
“Had there been no mens rea (guilt) that no offence has been committed by him, he would have himself brought his chappals, instead of asking Chandru Chavan. He knew that the death of the victim was not natural,” they said.
The court also found that D’Souza, who was last seen getting “comfortable” with a “relaxed and singing” Scarlett Keeling, did not sufficiently explain how she was found naked and dead in the waters of Anjuna beach barely two hours later after he met her.