Barman convicted of killing British schoolgirl in India

MUMBAI — A court in India on Wednesday found a local bartender guilty of raping and killing British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach in 2008, overturning his earlier acquittal.

Samson D'Souza was charged alongside Placido Carvalho after 15-year-old Keeling's bruised and semi-naked body was found in shallow water on a beach in the resort state, but both men were cleared of her murder in 2016.

On Wednesday, a judge in Mumbai upheld Carvalho's acquittal but overturned D'Souza's, convicting him of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using force with intent to outrage a woman's modesty and administering drugs with intent to harm.

D'Souza, who was 29 when he was arrested soon after Keeling's death, will be sentenced on Friday.

Vikram Varma, a lawyer for Keeling's mother, praised the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for taking up the case and appealing the acquittals.

"The CBI worked with the little evidence left and have done an excellent job to bring the matter to conviction," Varma told AFP.

D'Souza, an Indian national, could appeal in the Supreme Court, Varma said.

Keeling's death made international headlines and shone a spotlight on the seedy side of the resort destination, which is popular with Western hippies.

It also drew attention to India's sluggish justice system.

The authorities initially dismissed the death of Keeling, who was on a six-month holiday to India, as an accidental drowning but opened a murder investigation after her mother pushed for a second autopsy which proved she had been drugged and raped.

Police then claimed D'Souza and Carvalho plied Keeling with a cocktail of drink and illegal drugs, including cocaine, before sexually assaulting her and leaving her to die by dumping her unconscious in shallow water where she drowned.

The pair denied all charges, claiming that the teenager died accidentally after taking drugs of her own volition.

The initial trial began in 2010 but was dogged by numerous delays, including hearings of just one afternoon a month due to a backlog of cases and a public prosecutor withdrawing from proceedings.

Apart from Keeling, several other foreigners have been murdered in Goa over the past decade, while drug and alcohol-related mishaps are common.

In March 2017, the naked body of a 28-year-old Irish woman was found dumped near a tourist hotspot, and a local guide was later arrested for her rape and murder.

The following month, Goa cracked down on its legendary all-night dance parties when the state government announced it would begin enforcing a ban on loud music after 10pm.

— Agence France-Presse

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