Charges keep flying month after Scarlette’s death

March 18th, 2008 - 7:36 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi/Panaji, March 18 (IANS) A month after her body was found on a Goa beach, the death of 15-year-old British tourist Scarlette Keeling has led to an angry war of words between her mother and politicians. Tuesday, Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and blamed the teen’s mother Fiona Mackeown for leaving her alone in a foreign country.

His meeting with the prime minister comes even as Mackeown has charged Goa police with corruption and the politicians with a cover up, in high-profile charges amplified by the international media.

In turn, Goa home minister and former chief minister Ravi Naik urged New Delhi to tighten visa procedures and keep out those without a “regular source of income” or “unscrupulous” persons.

Mackeown, a mother of nine, was on the dole while she and her partner - together with her children - were on an extended six-month holiday in the beach destination of Goa.

She and the rest of her family were in Gokarn, another alternative beach in nearby Karnataka, when the semi-nude body of her 15-year-old daughter was found on Goa’s former hippy haunt of Anjuna on the morning of Monday, Feb 18.

Talking to reporters after meeting the prime minister, the Goa chief minister said that Scarlette was a minor and Mackeown should not have allowed her to wander off alone.

“Whenever I go abroad with my family I take ample precaution. I also appeal to the tourists to take precaution when they come here,” he said.

But, at the same time he asserted that Goa was a safe place for tourists. “I appeal to all tourists - Goa is the safest place and Goans are nice people,” Kamat said.

He said that since he was in the capital, he felt it was his duty to brief the prime minister on the issue.

Kamat did not give any direct answer to a query on a demand made by Naik that Mackeown’s visa should not be extended. “Our first priority is to handle the case,” he said.

The chief minister said that police have questioned 15 suspects detained on the basis of the description given by the victim’s kin.

Home Minister Naik and Mckeown have got into an angry slanging match, conducted through the media, with the minister charging the British tourist with irresponsible parenting and Mckeown charging the state authorities with bad governance.

British witness Michael Mannion, 35, who saw the girl just before she died, returned to Goa on Monday and deposed before police late evening.

Two people have been arrested and charged in this case. The police allege they drugged and raped the 15-year-old, leading to her death.

But reports in the London press, which have been taking an active interest in the case, have charged that police in Goa had not released some names emerging in the case as they were politically connected and influential.

Following the adverse international publicity, the Goa government has come out with a series of strong measures meant to tighten security.

Police warned of action against those loitering on the beaches at late hours, and, in an unrelated move, the authorities also announced long-overdue plans to use alcometers to curb drunken driving.

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