The case of Scarlette Keeling’s death in Goa is taking on epic proportions with accusations of cover-up and corruption leveled against the Goan police by Scarlette’s mother while the police seemingly shift from one position to another. First they said it was a case of death by drowning due to drug use in spite of the first autopsy detailing multiple signs of abuse on the girl’s body. After the second autopsy they changed the cause of death to rape and murder and then again flipped by falling back to their original position that it was actually death by drowning all along. Then they started claiming it was the fault of the girl’s mother to leave her alone in Goa while the former traveled elsewhere in India. And now, suddenly, the Goan police state that they have cracked the case with one of the prime suspects confessing to the rape and murder.
It is understandable why Fiona Mackeown, Scarlett’s mother, has no trust in the Goan police and wants a CBI probe. She alleges that the Goan police are in a criminal nexus with drug dealers and since the latter according to many reports are involved in the death of Scarlette she further claims that the police want to cover up the murder to protect the drug dealers. Another theory doing the rounds is that the Goan police wanted to hush up the murder as they did not want to damage Goa’s reputation as a prime tourist destination especially among Britons who comprise 60% of the foreigners visiting Goa.
Whichever way the case may finally turn what is undeniable is that it has completely tarnished the image of Goa and its police. In their bungled attempts to hush up the murder the Goan police have created a sordid news story that is going around the world. End result: Goa’s reputation as a ‘safe’ tourist paradise is under threat. Going wider it also threatens to silence the buzz generated by the ‘Incredible India’ tourist campaign. It is only recently that tourism in India has been growing at a strong pace increasing employment and injecting much needed money into the local economies. This case will only add to India’s unfortunate reputation that the rule of law exists only in name in India leading to tourists feeing unsafe and unprotected. One potential method to correct this would be for the Indian government to develop a special section among the police (that is accountable and transparent) to deal with crimes committed against tourists.
Unless the Goan police and the state government act quickly and take steps to restore confidence by punishing those police personnel involved in the cover up (the suspension of the one of the inspectors involved in the alleged cover up is a good first step) and pursue the criminals involved it is safe to speculate that tourist arrivals into Goa will take a hit. And underneath all the allegations and cover ups let us not forget the tragedy of a 15 year old girl who got involved with drugs and was killed while on holiday. While Fiona Mackeown might indeed have been irresponsible to leave her young daughter in the care of a tourist guide the least the Goan police can now do is to ensure that swift justice is delivered to her and her grieving family.