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Foreign women must be more careful, Goa chief says after girl’s ‘murder’

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Mar 05, 2008

Women tourists who visit Goa, where a teenage British girl was found dead last month, cannot expect to wander wherever they please after midnight without fear of the possible consequences, the chief minister of the Indian state said yesterday.

Digambar Kamat said that foreign women should take greater responsibility for their personal safety.

His comments will add to the controversy over the death of Scarlett Keeling, 15, whose mother, Fiona MacKeown, accuses police of covering up her rape and murder. Scarlett’s bruised and scratched body was found on the morning of February 18 after she was apparently seen intoxicated as she left a beach bar in the early hours.

On Saturday another holidaymaker, Michael Harvey, 34, was found dead in Goa, taking the number of Britons who have died in the state this year to ten. The British High Commission said that four of those had died from unnatural causes.

The two cases have highlighted the seedier side of Goa, where beautiful beaches and drug and dance parties helped to lure 2.2 million tourists last year, including 200,000 Britons. But Mr Kamat defended his government’s security record as he prepared to meet Mrs MacKeown to discuss the investigation into her daughter’s death.

“Foreign tourists have to be careful,” he said. “They can’t just do these things and then blame the government for the consequences. You can’t expect the government to provide police on the beaches after midnight.” He warned foreign women in Goa to avoid “insecure places” and to take “precautions”, while declining to define either term.

Scarlett had been left with a tour guide while Mrs MacKeown visited the state of Karnataka. Police say that the girl was last seen about 4am leaving a bar on Anjuna beach with a barman and in a state of intoxication.

Mrs MacKeown, a mother of eight from Devon, said that she had been upset by Mr Kamat’s comments. “If they are saying it’s dangerous for British people, then it’s the government’s responsibility to warn people,” she said. “There should be signs up, but there aren’t. Instead, it’s advertised as a hippy paradise, so you don’t feel it’s dangerous when you walk around.”

Mrs MacKeown has also appealed for information from a Briton who several foreigners in Anjuna say witnessed her daughter’s rape and fled the state in fear of local drug dealers. They are said to prey on young foreign women, supplying them with cocaine and MDMA then trying to have sex with them – often by force.

A postmortem examination concluded that Scarlett drowned and police were ready to close the case until Mrs MacKeown protested to senior state officials. Bosco George, the superintendent of police for North Goa, said that police would decide whether to open a criminal case after a second postmortem this week.

He said that Mr Harvey – the other dead Briton – was found on Saturday in his bed at Laura’s guesthouse near Ashwem beach, a popular backpacker haunt half an hour’s drive from Anjuna. A postmortem showed that he died of pulmonary and cerebral oedema. “As of now, we do not suspect any foul play,” Mr George said, adding that police had sent blood samples to be tested for alcohol and drugs.

Foreign women must be more careful, Goa chief says after girl’s ‘murder’

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