Raped and Murdered in Goa: How Scarlett Keeling’s Case Unfolded

Keeling was found raped and murdered on 18 February 2008. The verdict in the case is set to come out on Friday.

4 min read
Raped and Murdered in Goa: How Scarlett Keeling’s Case Unfolded

(This story was first published on 23 September 2016 and is being republished in the wake of Bombay High Court's conviction of a Goa beach-shack owner for her rape and murder in 2008.)

In a diary entry, 15 year-old Scarlett Keeling had pre-empted that her visit to India will be the “trip of a lifetime”.

Keeling was found half-naked and dead on 18 February 2008 in Goa’s Anjuna beach.

On 23 September 2016, more than eight years after her death, a Goa judge will pronounce his verdict on the case.

Here is how the tragic case unfolded and how her mother’s fight for justice continues.

Scarlett Keeling was murdered in February 2008. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

The Tragic Trip

Keeling came to India for a six-month holiday with her mother, Fiona MacKeown, her mother’s boyfriend and seven siblings and half-siblings.

Keeling wanted to stay back in Anjuna when the rest of her family made a plan to visit Karnataka. She would stay back with Julio Lobo, a 25-year-old local tour guide. In February, the 15-year-old joined her family in Gokarna, but pleaded to come back to Goa for a Valentine’s Day party. Despite her apprehensions, MacKeown agreed.

“Of course I will regret that as long as I live. The fact is I let her stay behind,” MacKeown told The Telegraph.

According to eyewitnesses, on the night of 17 February, Keeling was spotted at a shack on the beach, inebriated. According to Murli Sagar, an eyewitness, Keeling was then found with the two accused, Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho, who allegedly forced her into taking drugs.

Michael Mannion, a British eyewitness, reported that he watched Keeling leave with Sagar around 5 am. After a few minutes, Mannion said that he saw D’Souza was “lying on top” of her.

“In the light of the front beam of his scooter, I saw Samson D’Souza on top of Scarlett,” Mannion later said, “I was in a complete state of total panic, shock. I got on my bike and I rode off,” reported The Telegraph.

This was the last time anybody saw Keeling alive. Her bruised and half-naked body was found in the waters of the Anjuna beach.
Fiona MacKeown, Keeling’s mother, has been fighting for justice for the past eight years. (Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

An Eight-Year-Long Trial

What followed was an investigation by the Goa Police, one that Keeling’s mother still claims was “botched-up”. MacKeown says she still feels “angry” that the police did not do a proper first autopsy.

“I’m not going to go away, I’m going to keep going until I get an answer for Scarlett,” she had told The Independent in 2013.

After taking permission to examine Keeling’s body, MacKeown reported a total of 52 bruises and injuries, in contrast to the five wounds police had reported. Suspecting a police “cover-up”, MacKeown and her lawyer Vikram Varma approached the Chief Minister. After two days, a first information report (FIR) was filed.

On 2 March, a second autopsy was done, which confirmed that there were at least 50 bruises on her body. It also found injuries near her pelvic area, confirming rape. The autopsy also revealed that the water in lungs was too little to cause drowning.

Within 24 hours, D’Souza was arrested, after which, Carvalho was also taken under arrest. Sagar and Mannion both agreed to testify as witnesses.

On 5 June, the case was taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI booked the two accused for culpable homicide, not murder.

The two went to trial on 3 March 2010. However, the case has witnessed all kinds of hiccups, including a backlog of previous cases and frequent change in judges.

Mannion, one the key witnesses in the case, had also refused to testify, saying he “suffered a nervous breakdown” after Keeling’s body was found.

While 33 witnesses have given evidence, both accused plead not guilty to culpable homicide and sexual assault.

Scrarlett Keeling with a couple of her friends. (Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

The Hope For a Closure

The past eight years have witnessed a slew of discussions around her death – from claims of corrupt police, to questions getting raised on MacKeown’s “negligent parenting”

MacKeown, who is back in India for the final verdict, told The Telegraph that she hopes the court penalises her daughter’s killers. She hopes the two “suffer in a horrible Indian prison for the rest of their lives”.

She believes she was too trusting and “naive” for letting her daughter stay back.“I have got to live with that, but I did not murder her. It’s not my fault. I did not murder her.”  

While the case has remained controversial over the years, a diary discovered from Keeling’s belongings gave an insight into her state of mind only hours before her death.

The entries exposed her underage experiments with drugs and sex, ending with the words “I’m stuk [sic]” and “I want to go home”, alongside an anonymous doodle of a hangman.

Keeling’s death was shrouded in mystery up till now. Her mother hopes Friday will bring her some closure.

“Even if it’s 10 years, I feel it’s not enough, but I’ll be happy with second best. It should be a life sentence. Death is too nice for them,” she said.

(With inputs from The Telegraph.)

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