MARGAO: The Canacona police arrested a 23-year-old man with a criminal past on Wednesday on charges of murdering a 28-year-old Irish woman , Danielle McLaughlin.
McLaughlin's naked body was found at an isolated spot in Deubaug, south Goa, on Tuesday morning. Police named the arrested man as Vikat Bhagat, a resident of Bhagatwada, Char Rasta, Canacona. They said they were also interrogating three others to check if they were involved in the crime, reminiscent of the 2008 rape and murder of 15-year-old Briton Scarlett Keeling. Her killers were never punished.
Bhagat, police sources said, has a criminal record. He and three other locals were seen with the woman at a shack at Colomb, not too far from where her body was found.
Police sources claimed Bhagat had admitted he had raped the Irishwoman after taking her to the isolated spot late on Monday night. He then killed her using a broken beer bottle to prevent her from revealing his identity.
Her body was found the next day, with injuries to her head and face. "Seven injury marks were observed on different parts of her body, including head and face, suggesting a scuffle," DSP Sammy Tavares, supervising the investigations, told TOI.
Police are awaiting the post-mortem report, which will be conducted by doctors at the Goa Medical College and Hospital, Bambolim, before charging Bhagat with rape. Police have requested GMC to preserve her nail clippings and other forensic material for DNA profiling.
SP (north) Karthik Kashyap, who also holds charge as SP (south), said the accused had confessed to the crime. Sources said the shack where McLaughlin was last seen is very popular with foreign and domestic tourists.
On Monday, Holi celebrations were organised at the place and McLaughlin and her friends were among those who attended. Bhagat was arrested on the basis of CCTV footage that revealed that he and three of his friends were also seen with her at the shack.
Sources said the murdered woman had visited Goa last year as well and she may have befriended some locals then. She had known Bhagat since her last visit, sources said. This year, she had been staying at Arambol, north Goa, since February 23.
Police sources said she came down to Canacona on March 12 and stayed at a friend's place in Agonda. On Monday, she proceeded to Palolem at around 1pm. Thereafter, she was seen with the accused at a shack in Overem, Palolem, till around 9.30pm, as revealed by CCTV footage.
The clothes which the deceased had been wearing were found packed in a bag near Bhagat's house, police sources informed. The scooter belonging to the accused has also been attached, as also the British passport belonging to the deceased (she held dual nationality). The Irish embassy and the British high commission are in touch with authorities here.
Reports said McLaughlin had left Ireland in February to go "backpacking around the world". She spent her childhood in Buncrana, attending the local Scoil Mhuire secondary school, and later studied at a university in Liverpool.