Danielle McLaughlin death: Man to face rape and murder charges

Postmortem carried out on body of Buncrana woman (28) found dead in Goa, India

Indian police have released CCTV footage, which they say captures the final movements of Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin before she was murdered in Goa, India

 

A man suspected of killing an Irish woman at a tourist resort in Goa will face murder and rape charges, police in the Indian state have said.

A postmortem showed that Danielle McLaughlin died from cerebral damage and constriction of the neck, said Goa police Supt Umesh Gaonkar.

The 28-year-old from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was found severely beaten in a field between the popular Palolem and Agonda beaches in the south of the state on Tuesday morning.

She was found “lying in a pool of blood without clothes and there were injuries on the head and face”, Canacona Deputy Supt Sammy Tavares said.

News of the charges came shortly after police released CCTV footage showing the dual Irish-British national on the day before her death.

The images showed Ms McLaughlin walking before nightfall on Monday with a man police identified as the accused, Vikat Bhagat. Police said Mr Bhagat had confessed to the murder but denied sexually assaulting Ms McLaughlin.

Mr Tavares said a court had granted police permission to hold Mr Bhagat for seven days to complete their investigation. “Then we will submit a charge sheet and the case will go on,“ he said.

Ms McLaughlin had met Mr Bhagat on a previous trip to Goa and been “seen with this guy from the afternoon of the 13th”, he said.

The 24-year-old was arrested within four hours of police being alerted to the discovery of Ms McLaughlin‘s body. “On further investigations, he confessed of having [BEEN]involved in the gruesome murder of the innocent lady,” he said.

Vigil

A vigil, attended by some 200 tourists and locals, was held on Wednesday evening near where Ms McLaughlin‘s body was found. Candles were lit and wreaths and flowers were laid on the grass. Some attendees carried a banner reading: “Justice for Danielle“.

One of her friends said her body had been released after postmortem and would probably begin a journey home to Ireland on Friday.

Christy Duffy said two other friends were travelling to Goa so they could accompany the body during the repatriation process. He has raised more than €30,000 to help with the costs and to “give her the send-off she deserves“.

The charges came as criticism of the police handling of the case continued to mount. Saskia Gall, a British national who was asked to help identify Ms McLaughlin‘s body, said there had been significant “contamination of evidence“ at the crime scene.

“We went out to the field and there were about 30 or more men standing next to the body taking photos and watching,“ she said.

She questioned police claims that McLaughlin had been found in a pool of blood.

Two Britons who spent part of Monday night with Ms McLaughlin, but who were yet to be interviewed by police, told the Guardian she had been with a group and seemed comfortable and “free-spirited“.

Strong accent

Dave Woodruff (37) said he met Ms McLaughlin at the Green Park beach resort on Palolem beach. He said he noticed her strong Irish accent and the pair struck up a conversation.

“She was really interesting, told me about her family and life,“ he said. “We got on really well and spoke for a couple of hours.

“Progressively, as the night went on, about five Indian guys arrived and sat near to us,“ he said. Mr Woodruff‘s friend, Kate, who asked for her last name to be withheld, was also there with her husband.

“The men were kind of sticking to themselves,“ she said. “But it was obvious [Ms McLaughlin] knew them; she referred to them as friends.“

Kate said Ms McLaughlin did not seem under duress. “When she wasn‘t speaking to Dave or the Indian guys, she was happy, she was dancing,“ she said.

At about 9pm, Ms Woodruff, Kate and her partner agreed to go swimming. Woodruff said he asked Ms McLaughlin to join them.

“She said, ‘Yeah, give me two minutes. I just need to talk to my friends“, referring to the group of men. When he got out of the sea she had left the area, as had the group she was with.

Goan police are under pressure to investigate the case transparently after being accused of overlooking evidence in the death nine years ago of British teenager Scarlett Keeling.

The 15-year-old‘s death in the north of the state was initially ruled an accidental drowning, before pressure from the girl‘s mother forced a second postmortem which revealed evidence of drugs in her system, more than 50 cuts and bruises and evidence of sexual assault.

Two men charged with her murder were acquitted in September, but Indian authorities are appealing against the judgment

Guardian Service