The mother of a 15-year-old British schoolgirl killed at an Indian beach resort more than a decade ago has spoken of her relief at the conviction of her daughters’ killer.
Fiona MacKeown has been fighting for justice since her daughter Scarlett Keeling’s bruised and half-naked body was found on the shores of Anjuna beach in Goa in February 2008.
Two local men were charged with her rape and murder but acquitted in 2016.
After Ms MacKeown, 55, urged the authorities to appeal and the case was sent to a higher court, beach shack worker Samson D’Souza, 36, was convicted today of sexually assaulting the girl, and of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’.
Ms MacKeown said: ‘I’m actually still reeling. I can’t quite believe that it’s going to be over.
Samson D’Souza (pictured leaving court after he was acquitted in 2016) has been found guilty of the ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ which left 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling dead in India
‘It’s happening. It’s taking it’s time to sink in that this is finally going to be over.
‘Our lives have been on hold, well for me anyway. It’s different for the children. They’ve been getting on with their lives by growing up. But it’s been traumatic.
‘Whenever I go to India they’re always worried about what will happen to me.
‘We are definitely going to be celebrating tonight with a bottle of bubbly.’
D’Souza, who initially confessed to the charges of rape and murder but later claimed police tortured him into it, was charged alongside Placido Carvalho, 47, who was acquitted today.
Both were taken to trial in 2016 and both acquitted, sparking an appeal from the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Scarlett’s drowned and battered body, which had undergone 50 injuries during her assault, was found partially clothed on Anjuna beach while she was on the ‘holiday of a lifetime’ with her family in February 2008.
D’Souza will be sentenced on Friday and faces up to life in prison.
Scarlett’s mother Fiona has spent 11 years fighting for her justice, from the moment police claimed her death was an accident in 2008.
She believed that the police tried to cover up her daughter’s death.
Scarlett’s family were on holiday and had spent two months at a seaside resort in Goa before moving further down the coast to Karnataka.
Placido Carvalho (left, leaving court in 2016) was also charged with Scarlett’s rape and murder but was acquitted
Her mother let her return to Goa for a Valentine’s Day party in the care of family friend Julio Lobo, 25.
But it was while she was staying with Mr Lobo that she went out with a female friend one evening and never returned.
As soon as Ms MacKeown found out her daughter was dead she called the police, but found them to be of no help.
It was up to Ms MacKeown to find her daughter’s knickers, shorts and broken sandals strewn across the beach she was found washed up on, after police had supposedly scoured the area for evidence.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2009 she said: ‘I knew they were hers straight away. I recognised her underwear. I recognised her sandals with the imprints of her feet in them.
Her mother, Fiona MacKeown, had to campaign for a second post-mortem to be done on her daughter – which revealed she had been drugged and raped
‘One of them was broken so I knew there had been some kind of struggle. The shock. I remember that it made my fingertips tingle.’
It was also up to Ms MacKeown to push for a second post mortem on her daughter’s body, after police claimed it was unmarked at first.
After the second autopsy, police reported that Scarlett had ecstasy, cocaine and LSD in her system and that she had been raped before she drowned.
When Ms MacKeown went to identify Scarlett’s body she noticed it was covered in bruises.
She says that when she asked a police officer about a bruise on Scarlett’s head, she was told it had happened after her death when she hit her head on some sand while floating in the sea.
Ms MacKeown took pictures of her daughter’s body so she had proof of the marks.
The original investigating officer of the case was suspended after allegations were made that police were covering up Scarlett’s death.
The same officer had been suspended in 2005 when he allegedly tried to categorise a murder as suicide.
Ms MacKeown had to wait four years until she could bury her daughter because persistent delays in the trial wouldn’t allow for her body to be returned home to Bideford in Devon
Ms MacKeown also believes that police didn’t collect crucial evidence from the scene and allowed other vital evidence to be tampered with or destroyed – Curlies beach shack where D’Souza worked was taken down after Scarlett’s death.
Not only did Ms MacKeown have to struggle against the police, she was also summoned to court in India under charges of child neglect, which were dropped, because she had let Scarlett attend the Valentine’s Day party.
D’Souza was today found guilty of sexual assault, child abuse, destruction of evidence and of providing narcotics to Scarlett, according to the India Times.
Fiona Mackeown and her lawyer Vikram Verma speak with media as they leave a local police station near Anjuna beach in 2008
D’Souza initially confessed to the charges of rape and murder that had been put against him, but later claimed that he was tortured into it by police
How Scarlett’s death led to her brother ‘taking a fatal overdose after years of blaming himself’
An inquest heard Halloran Richard Keeling, 28, was found dead in temporary accommodation after taking an overdose of morphine.
A coroner said there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he had intended to take his own life.
But outside the hearing, mother-of-nine Fiona MacKeown said her oldest child did not got over 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling’s brutal rape and murder in India back in 2008.
Halloran had been due to go on the family holiday to Goa, where Scarlett was found dead 11 years ago but had been unable to get his passport sorted in time.
Their mother said Halloran felt directly responsible as he believed he would have protected her from harm if he had been on the trip.
She said he had battled mental health problems from a young age and overdosed on several previous occasions but was traumatised over what happened to Scarlett.
She said: ‘He was very close to Scarlett. He couldn’t have done anything and was not to blame at all, but he didn’t accept that.
‘He just felt if he had been there he could have looked after her. He wanted to come on the trip to Goa but couldn’t get a passport in time.
‘He just never got over his sister’s death. He was not stable at the time and blamed himself because of his mental health.
‘He thought if he had got his passport sorted out he would’ve been able to look after her. He tried to block it out with overdoses.
‘He feels that if he had been there he would have had been able to protect her. He felt hopeless. The whole thing is so distressing. He would overdose on a regular basis at my house.’
Both he and Carvalho were previously acquitted in 2016 but the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) appealed the verdict.
In court the prosecution claimed that the two men had been working at a shack on the beach and had plied Scarlett with drugs before raping her.
Ms MacKeown had to wait four years until she could bury her daughter because persistent delays in the trial wouldn’t allow for her body to be returned home to Bideford in Devon.
Earlier this year, when it looked as though whoever was responsible for Scarlett’s death would walk free, Ms MacKeown said: ‘The whole thing has been made a mockery of from start to finish.
‘I feel like they hope we just go away after 11 years. If it ends tomorrow then Scarlett will have been failed.
‘I fear it will never be solved but I’ll never stop hoping. I can’t bare thinking her killers may never be found. Her killers are still walking the streets.
‘I just want it all to be over now and for someone to be held accountable. We want to get on with our lives.
‘It has dominated our lives but we have all tried to move on. I’ll be devastated if that’s it after tomorrow.’
She added: ‘All we want is to get justice but I don’t know what else we can do. Scarlett’s name is being dragged through the mud.
‘The CBI aren’t taking this seriously. This is a massive part of our lives and we just want justice for what has happened to her. We all miss her everyday.
‘Scarlett deserves more than this. If it is dropped then Scarlett will have been failed.’
Fiona added she doesn’t know ‘where else to turn’ in her quest for justice if the High Court does choose to end proceedings this week but she’ll ‘never give up hope’.
‘Goa is a popular tourist place and is dangerous,’ she said.
‘Those people who did it are dangerous.’