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Scarlett Keeling case: Indian court to deliver verdict on Friday

Police initially dismissed the teenager's death as an accident but opened a murder probe after Keeling's mother, Fiona MacKeown, pushed for a second autopsy which proved she had been drugged and raped. Photograph: (AFP)

Mumbai, India Sep 21, 2016, 05.06 AM (IST)
An Indian judge will on Friday deliver his verdict in the rape and death of the 15-year-old British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling -- eight years after her half-naked corpse was found on the popular Anjuna beach in India's resort state of Goa. 

Police had at first dismissed the death as an accidental drowning but reopened the case after Scarlett's mother Fiona MacKeown insisted on a second autopsy which showed the 15-year-old had been raped and drugged. 

The two men accused of causing her death -- Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho -- have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using force with intent to outrage a woman's modesty, and of administering drugs with intent to harm.

They are accused of plying Scarlett with drinks and drugs, including cocaine, and then leaving her in shallow waters in which she drowned. 

Mrs MacKeown had wanted stronger charges levelled against the two men but the federal agency the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the investigation from the Goa Police, said they did not have the evidence needed to charge the men with the stronger accusations. 

Scarlett had been at a beach party before she died. 

Mrs MacKeown herself and her other daughters were at the time on holiday in the neighbouring state of Karnataka and had left Scarlett behind in the care of a Goan family. That was a decision Mrs MacKeown said she came to "bitterly regret" -- and which brought her in for a tremendous amount of censure back in Britain. 
Mrs MacKeown will be in Goa when the judge delivers his verdict. 

Delays & setback: 

The case itself has been dogged by delays, including infrequent hearings due to a backlog of cases and a public prosecutor withdrawing from proceedings. 

The prosecution's case was also dealt a blow when a key witness, the Briton Michael Mannion, who had been staying with D'Souza, refused to testify. 

"It was important for the judge to hear Mannion's testimony to convict. So that was a setback," prosecution lawyer Vikram Varma told AFP. 

"(But) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that after all this struggle we may get a verdict of guilty," he added. 

(WION with inputs from AFP)
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