Vikat Bhagat has been booked on a charge of murder
GOA: This is the first picture of the man accused of raping and murdering British tourist whose naked body was found near a beach in India. The suspect, Vikat Bhagat, has confessed to raping and later killing the holidaymaker in a bid to hide his identity, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sammy Tavares told reporters. He was arrested after the body of holidaymaker Danielle McLaughlin, 28, was found by a farmer in a field near Deobag Beach, in southern Goa, on Tuesday morning. Ms McLaughlin had travelled to the popular tourist area of Canacona to celebrate the festival of Holi and was allegedly seen with the suspected killer hours before her body was found. The experienced traveller had suffered extensive injuries to her face and body after being beaten, and was found several miles from a beach where she attended a party the night before, police revealed. Bhagat, from Canacona, was booked on a charge of murder after police questioned more than a dozen people. Police described him as a thief who has been convicted of crimes in the past. It was believed Ms McLaughlin arrived in the region on Sunday, was staying in the village of Arambol and attended a celebration on Palolem beach on Monday night after checking into the Dreamcatcher resort. The following morning a farmer found her body in an isolated area off a road leading to the village of Agonda, more than three miles away from Palolem beach. She had been living in Liverpool before moving back to her hometown of Buncrana, Co Donegal, Ireland, where family and friends were left devastated after being told of her death. She was travelling with a British passport.
One of Ms McLaughlin’s friends, who works in the accommodation business, told that she travelled from Arambol to Canacona on Sunday, and was staying with a friend who lives on the road leading to Agonda. She told the friend she was staying with that she was going to see a few Indian friends who she had met during a trip to Goa last year. Those friends were supposed to find her a place to stay at Palolem beach, the friend added. Ms McLaughlin had reportedly left her friend’s home at around 2pm on Monday and later told him that she had checked into a hotel in Palolem with a room overlooking the Arabian Sea. People who knew her said she was seen dancing with her Indian friends at the hotel during Holi celebrations. Indian media reported that police are looking for three more people in connection with the murder. It said police sources reported that Ms McLaughlin was last seen with Bhagat, her alleged killer, at a shack located some distance from where her body was found. A post-mortem examination was due to take place on Wednesday.
Police Inspector Filomeno Costa told reporters: “A local named Prashant Komarpant alerted us after he noticed the body while he was on his way to the fields around 7am on Tuesday morning. “The body had bruises and her face was badly smashed. “Looking at the injuries we concluded that that it was a case of murder. “We sent her body to Goa Medical College for autopsy and awaiting report to ascertain if she was sexually assaulted.” The inspector added: “We are also speaking with the hotels where she had stayed to find out if she was with her friends or holidaying alone.” Mr Tavares told reporters that the victim was found without clothes in a pool of blood. Detectives are also studying CCTV footage from all the shacks the victim visited on Monday night, and are working with teams of sniffer dogs and forensic teams. While the police found the woman’s clothes, they are yet to locate the murder weapon. Police released a photo of the victim’s tattoo, reading “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery”, as local media reported that detectives used it to trace her. It is understood Ms McLaughlin grew up with her grandparents and had returned to Buncrana last year when her grandfather died. Fr John Walsh, the local parish priest, said the woman’s mother had suffered a number of bereavements. He said: “The absolute horror of this girl’s murder has stunned the community. We feel for her mother in particular and her siblings.” Rena Donaghey, a Buncrana councillor who knows Ms McLaughlin’s mother and family, described their grief as unthinkable.
She said: “This has come as a great shock. A young girl, an independent woman, heading off to do what young girls and fellas do these days. “It is unthinkable what happened to her. And for her mother, being so far away from home, it makes it all the more difficult. “All our thoughts and prayers are with the family, that they can get through this difficult time.” Ms Donaghey said Ms McLaughlin had been studying and living in Liverpool before travelling for a time in Australia. She was in her home town of Buncrana before setting off to India last month. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said Ms McLaughlin was travelling to India under a British passport. A spokesman said: “It has been confirmed that the woman travelled to India using a British passport, so the local British consulate have the lead responsibility in terms of dealings with the Indian authorities. “The Irish Embassy is liaising closely with the British authorities and an Irish consular official is travelling from New Delhi to Goa.” A spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British-Irish woman following her death in Goa, India. “Our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time. Indian police are conducting an investigation and we are in close contact with them.” Residents of the coastal resort where Ms McLaughlin’s body was found were planning a vigil for Wednesday night.