A Goa court on Friday acquitted both the accused in the Scarlett Keeling rape and murder case, delivering a devastating blow to her mother, who has been hoping for justice ever since the death of the British schoolgirl in 2008.
The case lasted for eight years and the accused — Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho — were acquitted by the Goa Children's Court president Vandana Tendulkar at the end of a trial.
Friends and relatives of the two accused, Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho, cheered as the verdict was read out in the state capital Panaji.
But Keeling's mother said she was devastated by the outcome and promised to fight to overturn the verdict.
Fifteen-year-old Keeling was raped and murdered on the famous Anjuna beach in the north of Goa. Her body was found just after dawn on 18 February, 2008.
The police initially declared her death as an accidental drowning, but her mother pushed for a second autopsy.
The autopsy revealed 50 separate cuts and bruises, and too little water in her lungs for drowning. It also revealed that she had been drugged and raped.
Keeling was on a six-month-long family holiday with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and her seven siblings.
She had pleaded her mother to be allowed to remain on the hippy beach, while the rest of the family moved to Karnataka. At first her mother refused, but then a family friend Julio Lobo said that she could stay in his aunt's house near the beach and that he would look after her, according to BBC.
On the night of 17 February, she was seen entering an Anjuna beach bar called Luis’ Shack at around 3am, by eyewitnesses
The Telegraph quoted the bar owner as saying, “She was already inebriated upon her arrival, and was seeking a lift home.” A British eyewitness Michael Mannion, however, said that he saw D’Souza "lying on top" of Keeling in the bar’s car park.
Both the accused are alleged to have plied the girl with drugs, raped her and then left her unconscious, The Guardian reported. They have, however, pleaded not guilty.
“She was just having fun, helping out, serving food and drinks. She was pretty, and everyone liked her,” The Telegraph quoted her mother as saying. However, it later emerged that she had a sexual relationship with one of the locals.
Her mother’s unconventional lifestyle drew criticism and she had to fight to protect her reputation and that of her daughter. The BBC reported that Keeling’s mother recalled a newspaper describing her and her family as "soap-dodging pikeys".
Reporters also denounced Keeling’s lifestyle, which according to some included experimentation with sex, drugs and alcohol.
Keeling's case got weakened because Mannion could not provide any evidence, Express & Echo reported. Keeling's mother tried to contact him but "he did not answer any of the messages." She said that she has had to face a corrupt police system where bribes are taken. The entire case has been "like 'a game of snakes and ladders' with highs and lows" for her.
On Friday, she decried the Indian justice system and said that she has no faith in it anymore.
2008 Scarlett Keeling murder case: I don't have faith in the justice system here to give us justice, anymore: Scarlett Keeling's mother pic.twitter.com/TxxToyYjkz
— ANI (@ANI_news) September 23, 2016
ANI quoted her as saying that she had some hope from the Central Bureau of Investigation but they are either incompetent or corrupt.
If international tourist comes to Goa and gets murdered, they have no hope for justice in this system: Scarlett Keeling's mother pic.twitter.com/2reTrPOD6X
— ANI (@ANI_news) September 23, 2016
The case is still not closed, because Keeling’s mother has vowed to keep fighting after the disappointment delivered by the court to her on Friday.
With inputs from AFP.