GOA – An Indian court has convicted one of the two men charged over the rape and killing of British teenager Scarlett Keeling in Goa in 2008.
The high court in Goa found Samson D’Souza guilty of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. It upheld the acquittal of Placido Carvalho.
A lower court had acquitted both men in 2016 after a prolonged trial, but the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) appealed against the verdict.
D’Souza will be sentenced on Friday.
He was found guilty of assault, destruction of evidence and providing narcotics to Scarlett, among other charges, the Keelings’ lawyer, Vikram Varma, told the BBC.
Scarlett’s mother, Fiona MacKeown, told the BBC she was “delighted” by the verdict but was sorry it had taken so long for justice to be obtained for her daughter.
She said the Indian authorities had put her family “through hell” and her heart went out to all the other families fighting for justice for loved ones who had been murdered abroad.
Ms MacKeown said she had been worried there would not be enough evidence for a conviction.
“I think he murdered her but culpable homicide is very close,” she said.
“I hope that we can all put this behind us now and get on with our lives.”
She said she would continue to campaign for justice for other families of people murdered in Goa.
“I think that people still need to take huge precautions,” she said of the beach destination.
“It is still not safe until the tourist murders are taken seriously.”
Scarlett’s bruised and partially clothed body was found on a beach in Goa in February 2008. The 15-year-old from Bideford in Devon was on a six-month “trip of a lifetime” to India with her family when she died.
Police in Goa initially concluded her death was accidental but, after a campaign by her family, a second post-mortem examination in March 2008 revealed she had been drugged and raped before drowning in seawater.
Delays in court saw a trial start in March 2010, but a verdict was not reached until 2016.
Mr Carvalho and D’Souza denied all charges and were acquitted by a judge at Goa Children’s Court in September 2016.
Scarlett’s body was found on Anjuna beach just after dawn on 18 February 2008.
The family had spent two months at the Goan resort before travelling down the coast to neighbouring Karnataka – but Scarlett was allowed to return to attend a Valentine’s Day beach party.
She was left in the care of 25-year-old tour guide Julio Lobo, Ms MacKeown told media outlets.
“That’s the last memory I have of her, squealing and being excited because I said yes,” Ms MacKeown said.
“I have to live with that every day that I let her go.”
Two days after Scarlett’s body was discovered, her mother found her sandals, pants and shorts close to the beach.
“There was no investigation,” she said at the time.
Traces of cocaine, ecstasy and LSD were found in her system and she suffered 50 separate injuries in the attack, the court heard.
The case was taken up by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and D’Souza and Mr Carvalho were arrested in March 2008.
The prosecution alleged the men were working at a beach-side shack near where Scarlett’s body was found, had plied her with drugs and then attacked her.
What caused the trial delay?
It took two years for the trial to begin, in March 2010. With 72 witnesses to be called, the court case was expected to last a year – but prosecutor SR Rivonkar resigned the following February, causing further delays.
By December 2013, 30 witnesses had given evidence, with dozens more to go.
Along with the delays in court, Ms MacKeown had to wait four and a half years to bury her daughter.
She was finally laid to rest in June 2012, in a garden at the family’s home in Devon.
The 2016 acquittal of the two men prompted angry statements from Ms MacKeown.
The verdict also drew widespread criticism in Goa, leading to the CBI filing a petition for a retrial. -BBC