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Scarlett's mother in justice vow after pair cleared over teen's rape and death

Published 23/09/2016

British teenager Scarlett Keeling, 15, killed in Goa, India, in 2008
British teenager Scarlett Keeling, 15, killed in Goa, India, in 2008

The mother of British teenager Scarlett Keeling has vowed to continue fighting for justice after two men were cleared of raping and killing her daughter in Goa in 2008.

Fiona MacKeown, who travelled to India for the long-awaited trial verdict, said she was disappointed with the outcome and hoped to take the case to a higher court.

Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho were alleged to have plied the 15-year-old with drugs, raped her and left her unconscious on the beach where she subsequently drowned.

But they were acquitted of charges of rape and culpable homicide at Goa Children's Court on Friday.

Mr D'Souza told reporters: "I am happy with the verdict. Justice has prevailed."

Mr Carvalho said: "There was nothing in the case. We were being framed."

Scarlett's bruised and half-naked body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of Goa in February 2008.

She had been at a Valentine's Day beach party while the rest of her family had gone travelling.

Her death was originally treated as an accident but eventually police charged local men Mr D'Souza and Mr Carvalho.

The court had heard that Scarlett, from Bideford in north Devon, suffered 50 separate injuries.

After the initial police conclusion that she had died accidentally, a second post-mortem report was carried out at the Goa Medical College and Hospital and a new investigation was launched.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Carvalho and Mr D'Souza, who was working at a beachside shack near where her body was found, had plied Scarlett with drugs, then attacked her.

But defence lawyer Marvin D'Souza said the investigation had been influenced by diplomatic pressure and trial by media.

He said: "There was no evidence against my client from the beginning. The CBI (the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's elite national police agency) were just going ahead without any evidence. If the CBI decide to take the matter up to the High Court, we will see what legal options we have."

But Ms MacKeown's lawyer, Vikram Verma, said the criminal justice system had "failed".

He said: "It is for the CBI to decide. Facts are that the medical evidence talks of 52 injuries, coke, eyewitness and forensic supports this. But according to the verdict, no-one killed her, hurt her or gave her cocaine.

"The job of the investigation agency is to find out who has done it and to present evidence to support their case. The present criminal justice system has failed."

Speaking at a press conference in Goa after the verdict, Ms MacKeown said the police were "corrupt".

"The medical evidence confirms that my daughter Scarlett was grievously assaulted, raped and murdered after some criminals gave her alcohol and cocaine.

"Right from the beginning I knew that the local police did not want to prosecute the killers. It took a huge effort from me even to get the police to register a complaint.

"I had some hope that the CBI ... It is clear that they are either incompetent or corrupt and I don't believe that they are incompetent.

"I can only say that if international tourists come to Goa and are murdered, they have no hope that justice (will be done) in this system.

"I don't believe there has ever been justice for a murdered tourist in this country."

She added: "The criminal justice system protects the criminals and not the tourists."

Ms MacKeown also called on Vandana Tendulkar, president of the Children's Court, to make public her reasons for acquitting the men.

"I want to see her judgment and I want to scrutinise it and then I'm going to show it to the whole world, so it better be good."

Ms MacKeown said that she was not confident of a prosecution for culpable homicide because of a key witness "pulling out at the last minute".

Michael Mannion, a carpenter from London who was travelling in Goa, had told police he saw Mr D'Souza on top of Scarlett hours before she was found dead on the beach.

Ms MacKeown said she held him "partially responsible for this lack of a guilty verdict" for not returning to give evidence to the trial.

Ms MacKeown also told reporters at the press conference that she was not hopeful that an appeal would lead to a conviction.

"I don't have much hope of a positive verdict to an appeal."

She continued: "I'll just sort of gather myself and speak to Vikram, see what he thinks is possible to do next.

"I'm not going to just go away and give up. I just feel very deflated at the moment by this whole thing and until I see a judgment I won't know what to think."

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