Scarlett case: Verdict casts doubt on impartiality of probe
The Goa Childrens’ Court, which last week acquitted two men in connection with the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, raised serious doubts about the impartiality of the probe in the case, noting it appeared to be monitored by the victim’s mother and her lawyer.
The verdict, pronounced on September 23 by judge Vandana Tendulkar, noted that “the entire process of investigation is seen monitored by the mother of victim (Fiona MacKeown) and her advocate, at every stage, thereby creating serious doubt about the impartiality of the investigation.”
Scarlett was found dead on the famous Anjuna beach of Goa on February 18, 2008.
Initially, Goa Police and later the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probed the case, which attracted international attention, besides raising questions on the safety of women in this world renowned tourist destination.
Two men –Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho –were chargesheeted by CBI in the case. The duo were accused of leaving the girl to die on the beach after drugging and sexually abusing her. The court noted that advocate representing the mother of the victim, had expressed doubts about the first autopsy in the case which had declared that the death was due to drowning.
“The second autopsy had taken five hours which ought to have been completed within two hours. For the meeting in the office of SP North Goa (after the second autopsy), Vikram Varma (the lawyer) was present,” the verdict said.
The court also said that the possibility of the cause of death of the victim being accidental drowning, could not be ruled out in this case. Quoting a medical witness, the court said the cause of death to the best of knowledge is due to drowning in beach and sand waters of a person intoxicated with alcohol and hypnotic drugs. The verdict, which came almost 8 years after the death of the 15-year-old girl, also said that there was a considerable delay on part of Goa Police to record the statements of all the witnesses.
“Michael Mannion, the so-called eye witness of the prosecution, could not be examined despite several opportunities given to the prosecution and after considerable time consumed by the prosecution, firstly, to secure his presence and then to get his testimony recorded by means of video-conferencing,” it said.
“Besides Michael, one more British person by name Charlie, was said to be present. But he was also not examined before the court,” it said. The verdict also said that after recording of the statements by Goa Police, CBI had recorded their statement once again in June 2008.
“In the circumstances, improvements in the versions of these witnesses are sufficient to create reasonable doubt about the case of prosecution, as claimed by Samson and the benefit of any such doubt would go to the accused persons,” the court said.