The case of the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling in 2008 in Goa, a controversial case which had grabbed headlines then, has finally reached a conclusion. On Friday, Judge Vandana Tendulkar acquitted the accused Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges, leaving the mother of he deceased Fiona MacKeown devastated. She expressed shock at the verdict. “I am shocked. I was not expecting acquittal. I was expecting conviction. I will challenge the order,” Fiona told reporters outside the court.
In a statement to Indian Express Fiona was heard saying “If international tourist comes to Goa and gets murdered, they have no hope for justice in this system,” she added.
It has been 8 years since the incident took place on 17th Feburary 2008, and there have been claims of sexual assault and corrupt police, negligent parenting and political cover-ups, which have generated endless headlines that made this case gain national as well as international attention from the media.
Scarlett Keeling had come to India on holiday in 2008 with her mother Fiona and six siblings. Her death happened in mysterious circumstances, which her family claims was murder.
Before we take sides on the case let us take a look at the facts which eventually led to the final verdict-
Scarlett on the night of her murder was last seen at Luis’ Shack and Samson D’Souza, 30, who was then was working as a bartender, or “shack boy”, at the make-shift beach shack.
The second man accused is Placido Carvalho, 42, an alleged drug dealer, was accused of plying Scarlett with cocaine.
The two men are known to be friends and were seen with Scarlet by many eye-witnesses that night.
The Prosecution’s case
The case presented to the court by Fiona largely rested on the shoulders of Michael Mannion – a 43-year-old long-term Goa tourist known to friends as “Masala Mike”. He was the only eye-witness in the case, and he stated to the police that he had spoken to Scarlett earlier in the evening. According to him she had looked intoxicated, and that later on according to his testimony he had seen Samson D’Souza ‘on top’ of Scarlett outside a bar, as reported by the Telegraph.
But after Scarlett’s body was found, Mannion fled and went into hiding for several days. He however did later come forward after police promised to protect him, and gave his account of events to a magistrate. But thereafter he moved back to England. He has since repeatedly refused to travel to Goa to give evidence, or even appear before the court.
The defence side has made their case mostly on the basis of the initial post-mortem which merely stated Scarlett’s death was “due to drowning… with a few non-fatal injuries”. They pointed to the presence of morphine and cocaine in Scarlett’s system to explain how a strong swimmer could have drowned in the sea late at night
The lack of the eye witness account finally led the court to give a decision in favour of the defence and let go of the accused parties.