JUSTICE for a Bideford teenager, who was raped and murdered in India, could be a step closer now a further hearing has taken place in the case.
The body of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling was found partially naked on a beach in Goa in 2008.
The former pupil of the Small School in Hartland was on a six-month-long trip to the country with her family at the time.
Now five years later the Goan authorities have still not convicted anyone for Scarlett’s murder, leaving her mother Fiona MacKeown increasingly desperate to see those responsible brought to justice.
However, on Monday a further hearing in Goa took place to confirm Scarlett had died from drowning.
It was the first movement on the case in months and although the hearing has not revealed anything new it has given Miss MacKeown, who lives near Bradworthy, hope that progress is being made.
She said: “In a sense it is a pointless exercise because we already knew Scarlett had drowned, from the original autopsy, but I am just glad the case is progressing.
“At least it proves the original autopsy was correct.
“I have said I want further investigation, and this is part of that.
“I fear if they do rush the case through too quickly then the Indian authorities will cover their tracks and no one will be convicted.
“So I would prefer it to take a little longer and a conviction made.”
Miss MacKeown was not aware Monday’s hearing was taking place, but believed it could be due to pressure from the UK on the Indian authorities to progress their investigations into the death of Britons in India.
She added: “Communication between the UK and India is terrible as I don’t think the Indian authorities are responsive at all. I learn most of what is happening through reporters at the Times of India.”
Miss MacKeown has been in regular contact with the MP for Torridge and West Devon Geoffrey Cox about the case.
Mr Cox said earlier this year he has been pushing for justice in case through the Foreign Office since Scarlett’s death but is aware too much pressure could jeopardise the case.
Mother’s ongoing fight to discover her daughter’s killers:
SCARLETT Keeling’s mother Fiona MacKeown fought the Indian authorities to prove Scarlett had been murdered rather than their initial belief that she had drowned.
Miss MacKeown highlighted the marks on her daughter’s body and the proof was found after a second post-mortem was carried out.
Then, a month after Scarlett’s death in 2008, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation started a fresh investigation which led to the arrest of Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho, who were charged in connection with the killing.
The pair are accused of culpable homicide, grievous sexual assault and destroying evidence. Both defendants have denied the charges.
Scarlett’s body was only buried last year – more than four years after she died.
Since her death Scarlett’s body had been held in Exeter by the Greater Devon coroner because of the ongoing trial of two men charged over her death.
It was only in April last year the Goan authorities gave permission for the body to be released to Scarlett’s family.