Eight years after British teenage girl Scarlett Eden Keeling was found dead on a beach in Goa, a children’s court on Friday acquitted two local men accused of drugging, sexually abusing and leaving her to die on the shore.
Goa Children’s Court Judge Vandana Tendulkar acquitted Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges in the high profile case, which had cast a shadow on the coastal resort, a former Portuguese enclave.
Carvalho and Samson were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sexual abuse and drugging.
As the verdict was pronounced in a jam packed court hall, Scarlett’s mother Fiona MacKeown did not hide her deep disappointment.
“I am devastated, I am shocked,” said Fiona, who waited for long for the verdict in the case as the trial dragged on for years due to several reasons, including withdrawal of the initial prosecutor and failure to get the deposition of a key witness from abroad.
Talking to reporters outside the court here, Fiona, who flew down to Goa from Davon (UK) to be present in the court for the final verdict, said, “I am shocked. I was not expecting acquittal. I was expecting conviction. I will challenge the order.”
Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar termed the judgement as “unfortunate”, but said it will not hamper the image of the coastal state. “I have just heard about the verdict, I have not gone through the entire judgement. I feel the outcome of the verdict is heartbreaking, it is very unfortunate. Unless, I go through the judgement I would not be in a position to detail my reaction,” he said.
“It is a heartbreaking judgment...I feel that such a outcome of the case needs to be challenged in the higher court,” he added.
The 15-year-old’s bruised and semi-nude body was found at Anjuna beach on February 19, 2008. After the body was found, Fiona stayed in Anjuna for a couple of weeks trying to piece together the evidence in the case.
Goa Police was accused of trying to hush up the case. The police had initially dismissed it as a case of drowning, but later registered it as culpable homicide, after Fiona pressed for a second autopsy, which found that the girl was drugged and raped.
CBI, to which the probe was handed over later following repeated pleas made by Scarlett’s family, had filed its chargesheet in the case in 2009.
The case had grabbed international attention as British citizens used to form the largest number of tourists visiting Goa.