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Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin killed in Indian tourist spot, heartbroken mother leads tributes

By Alan O'Keeffe, Cathal McMahon, Amy Molloy and PA

A man has confessed to raping Irish woman Danielle McLaughlin who was found dead at an Indian tourist spot, according to police.

Ms McLaughlin (28), from Buncrana, left on a backpacking adventure last month and had been celebrating the Holi festival in Canacona on Tuesday.

She was discovered with injuries to her head and face.

Her mother, Andrea Brannigan, has led tributes to her today saying she will be "sadly missed".

Deputy Superintendent of Police Sammy Tavares told reporters that her remains were sent to the Goa Medical College and hospital to establish if the victim was raped before the attack.

Police sources told the Times of India that a local farmer noticed the body of a young woman while he was on his way to the fields, in a woodland spot - 300m from a road.

According to IANS the victim had arrived in the Palolem beach area on Sunday evening to participate in Holi celebrations before being found dead on Tuesday.

Supt Tavares told reporters that they had arrested a suspect: "He has confessed to raping the victim and later killing her in order to hide his identity."

"We are investigating people with whom she was playing Holi during a party here. Her friend has also given us some leads and we are questioning some suspects,” a police officer told IANS.

Six "suspects" have been questioned by police in relation to the killing and one man is due to be brought before a court today.

Sources have told Independent.ie that Ms McLaughlin is originally from Buncrana, Co Donegal. She left Ireland in February to go "backpacking around the world".

Local councillor Rena Donaghey (FF) said: "The whole community and the town of Buncrana is in deep shock today.  Everyone is very saddened by the news.

"She was a lovely young woman who has come to a very sad end.

"She was very popular and very liked in the community. She headed off on a backpacking holiday in February to do some travelling.

"On behalf of the community, I would like to offer sympathy and condolences. I hope God will give the family strength at this tragic time to help them through the weeks and months ahead," said the Fianna Fail councillor.

Dozens of friends paid tribute on Facebook, with one writing; "It was a pleasure knowing u & spending 5 yrs in school with u.! Such a bubbly girl.! [sic]."

The popular woman grew up in Buncrana, attending the local Scoil Mhuire secondary school. She studied at university in Liverpool and reports say she held a British passport.

Buncrana parish priest Fr Francis Bradley told Independent.ie that he was looking after the family.

"Her family are understandably distraught at what has happened," Fr Bradley told BBC Radio Foyle.

"They are a family who have suffered a lot of loss over the last number of years, her mother in particular.

"The loss is immense and the circumstances of that death, the distance between where it happened and where the family are, adds to the difficulty that the family feel at this time."

Fr Bradley described Danielle McLaughlin as a "happy-go-lucky" girl who loved to travel.

"I met the young lady in question a few months ago at the time that her grandfather was gravely ill and she was very close to her grandfather, who subsequently died.

"She seemed a happy go-lucky, friendly, quiet girl.

"To find that there could be malice or something very sinister involved in the way in which someone died is particularly disturbing and has its own challenge that we as a community will have to face," he added.

Ms McLaughlin recently wrote on Facebook that she was travelling to India.

"Thank you to all my friends and family for making home so special and always looking after me. I am very grateful and the luckiest person I know...Off on another adventure..."

A bar that she worked at in Liverpool posted a tribute to her on Facebook. The Pumphouse in Albert Dock wrote: "Very sad to hear we have lost one of our old team members Danielle McLaughlin in Goa this week. She was only 28. Goodbye Danielle. Deepest condolences to her family in Ireland."

In a statement Liverpool John Moores University said: "The university is shocked and saddened to hear of the death of one of our former students, Danielle McLaughlin.

"We send our sincere condolences to her family and friends from all at LJMU."

A spokesman would not say what Miss McLaughlin studied at the university or when she left.

Suresh Velip, head constable at Goa Police, said a 24-year-old Indian man remains in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder.

Asked about details around the case, he told the Press Association: "It is still under investigation."

Mr Velip said Ms McLaughlin's body was found in a remote area near Deobagh Beach in Canacona on Tuesday morning.

The police man said a post-mortem examination had been carried out, but he declined to disclose any details of the findings.

The suspect is expected to appear in court in Canacona at some stage.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told Independent.ie: "The Irish embassy in Delhi is in contact with the Indian authorities in relation to reports of an incident involving an Irish citizen. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stands ready to provide consular assistance."

In 2008, a British teenager Scarlett Keeling (above) was raped and left to die at Anjuna beach in Goa.

Miss Keeling's mother said she her heart sank after hearing of the killing in Goa, saying "it just brings it all back".

Fiona MacKeown said: "It is horrific. My heart breaks for her family and friends. I know what they are going through.

"It really makes my heart sink. I just feel so sad for her mum, siblings and friends."

Ms MacKeown found that dealing with the Goan police and authorities while grieving over her daughter was "frustrating" and like "banging your head against a brick wall".

She hoped Ms McLaughlin's family would not have to face a similar trauma and added "it is a possibility, but it is early days yet in the investigation and I hope it works out well" for them.

Irish Independent

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