Scarlett murder: will CBI succeed where Goa police failed?

October 4th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Goa, Oct 4 (IANS) Act two of British teenager Scarlett Keeling’s murder trial will unfold at the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court Monday when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will argue for cancellation of bail granted to main accused Samson D’Souza.All eyes are now on India’s premier investigative agency, CBI, which is handling the case of 15-year-old Scarlett, who was found raped and murdered on Anjuna Beach in February this year.

Even after a long drawn investigation spread over six months that were marred by scandal and controversy, Goa Police’s case against Samson had precariously rested on one lone reluctant witness - British national Mike Mannion, alias Mike Masala.

According to police, Mike was probably the last person other than Samson to see Scarlett. After hearing about her murder, Mannion had fled Goa.

It was only after a lookout notice issued by Goa police, meant to dissuade Mannion’s attempts to leave the country, that he returned and agreed to depose before the police.

After his deposition, Mannion did not have kind words for Goa police, who have made his statement the fulcrum of their investigation.

“I was promised by Goa police that immediately after my deposition and statements, I would be permitted to go home. Having named the accused in my statements, I now fear for my life and I have also informed Goa police that my father is on his death bed and as a son I want to be with him. Despite this, I have not been allowed to go,” Mannion had reportedly said in June.

Mannion had reason to fret.

Even after six months of investigation, he is the only direct shred of evidence which links D’Souza to the murder. And that alone hasn’t been enough to keep the latter behind bars.

President of the Children Court Desmond D’Costa in his bail order dated Sep 22 stated that Goa police had been unable to come up with any other morsel of tenable evidence, other than Mannion’s statement.

D’Costa called the star witness’ statement “the only direct statement which links the accused with the present crime”.

The bail order goes on to say “…only on the basis of this statement, it can be considered that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations against the accused are well founded”.

Mannion in his statement to police had stated that he had seen D’Souza and Scarlett in a compromising position behind a shack on the fateful night of Feb 17. The two were caught in the glare of his two-wheeler’s headlight.

Another observation made by the judge is a terse reminder to the investigating agencies of their failure to unearth any reasonable evidence in order to seal the case despite the six-month time span at their disposal.

“Beyond the mere suspicion of involvement of the present applicant in this crime, the prosecution has not collected any further materials linking him (D’Souza) to this crime.”

The general incompetency displayed by Goa police along with repeated allegations of compromise and corruption had forced the state government to hand the case over to the CBI.

When Scarlett’s body was found, Goa police initially said she had died after drowning. But her mother Fiona MacKeown pointed to bruise marks on her body and forced police to reopen the case and conduct a second autopsy, which returned a verdict of rape and murder. MacKeown says there is a cover-up between police, politicians and drugs barons.

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