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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March 2008, 11:41 GMT
Scarlett mother 'feels harassed'
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Panaji, Goa

Fiona MacKeown
Scarlett's mother accused the police of a cover-up
Dozens of journalists have descended on a corner of India to follow the investigation into the murder of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, as many questions about her death remain unanswered.

On a sunny morning, the media scrum outside the handsome, brown-tiled building that houses the Goa police's "special juvenile unit" in the capital, Panaji, was frenziedly speculating about why Fiona MacKeown had been summoned there.

On Friday night, two constables had knocked on Ms MacKeown's door and handed a summons to her to appear next morning at the unit's offices in connection with the rape and murder of her 15-year-old daughter.

Scarlett was drugged and left for dead on a beach in Goa last month, after being left by her mother in the care of a 25-year-old tour guide that she had befriended in the resort of Anjuna. Two men have been arrested.

Her mother and her six other children had travelled to the neighbouring state of Karnataka.

There was no suggestion that they are investigating me
Fiona MacKeown
The summons sparked speculation that she would be questioned about allegations of failing to provide a safe environment for Scarlett under Goa's five-year-old Children's Act which claims to "promote and protect the best interests of children" in the state.

After 105 minutes inside the police unit, Ms MacKeown walked out with her lawyer to tell the scrum that she had just given a statement - recorded on a video camera - about what she knew about the case.

"There was no suggestion that they are investigating me. I told them what had happened, and the police are treating me as a witness," she said.

"They [the police] were not aggressive with me... but that doesn't rule out the fact that I feel intimidated and harassed by this whole process," she said.

Minutes later, Bosco George, the police superintendent investigating the case, came out and the media scrum moved to him.

"We asked whether she can help us, give us some leads [to the investigation]," a calm Supt George said.

Distressed

In response to the BBC's question whether Ms MacKeown was co-operating with police, Supt George smiled and mopped the sweat on his brow.

"The fact that she has arrived here is co-operation, isn't it," he said wryly.

Scarlett Keeling. Picture: Barcroft Media
Two men have been arrested over Scarlett's death
When Ms MacKeown had arrived at the police unit in the morning, she looked shaken and distressed.

"I don't know what they will ask me. They are just harassing me," she said, adding that she had been already questioned once early during the investigation.

"The police have lied to me. They have told me Scarlett's body was found floating in the sea, that she was wearing swimwear, that her body had no bruise or struggle marks.

"They have cajoled and convinced me that it is a simple case of drowning and I must take her body back home quickly."

She distributed photocopies of seven pages of various letters and statements which she said supported her allegations.

Let the courts give its verdict on the quality of investigation
Supt Bosco George
One of the documents was a Goa police "first information report" dated 9 March on Scarlett's death, that mistakenly said Ms MacKeown's father's name was "Mr Sukumar Desarkar", a very Indian name. Supt George conceded that was an error.

A statement by Ms MacKeown alleged she had information that the "drugs mafia" in Goa had a "strong nexus" with a senior Goa minister and a police official.

But Supt George denied allegations there was a police conspiracy to hush up the investigations.

"Wild allegations...what is this police conspiracy?" he said. "Let the courts give its verdict on the quality of investigation. Let the courts decide whether it was shoddy or not."

Speculation

The police have admitted that there have been "serious lapses" in investigation and suspended a policeman who was initially investigating the case. They have denied charges of a cover-up.

At the end of it all, the thinning scrum covering Goa's biggest story this year speculated for the last time.

Why did the police call Ms MacKeown to a juvenile unit of the department for a statement? Had they initially planned on questioning her on "neglecting" her child, and later changed their mind? If so, why?

There are still many unanswered questions in the Scarlett Keeling case.





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