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The Rediff Interview/Maureen Bennett
'My son was abducted and killed'
January 15, 2007
Maureen Bennett is very upset that the death of her son Stephen, the British tourist who was murdered in mysterious circumstances on December 10 last year in a village in Roha district of Maharashtra, has not been properly investigated by the Indian police.
She feels the Indian police has not even bothered to contact her and are spreading false information that her son was a drug addict and suffering from AIDS.
"My son was under threat and he had called me some days before his death," Maureen told rediff.com in an e-mail interview.
Stephen's body was found hanging from a tree in Malsai village, about 130 km from Mumbai, and local police arrested four villagers, accusing them of the murder.
Stephen, who was on a visit to Goa, had phoned his family in England saying that he was feeling threatened by some people there. He then left by a train from Goa en route to Mumbai on December 7. However, he got off at Roha station. His whereabouts in Roha for three days are still a mystery.
Maureen answered questions from Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf via e-mail about her son's death and her likely visit to India:
What has your experience been dealing with the Mumbai and Maharashtra police since your son's murder? Do you find them cooperative?
The Maharashtra police have never been in contact with me.
There are many theories circulating about your son's murder. Do you think he was murdered by the villagers as the police claim? What do you think happened?
He was abducted and his body was found near this village. I cannot comment further but he was threatened by two people in Goa.
When and how did you come to know about your son's murder?
The British police visited with the news on December 13.
Tell us something about Bennett's family and his background.
Stephen was well educated with a BA and MA from Leeds University. He is qualified as a teacher and has two young daughters. He worked as a builder.
The police claim he was a drug addict and a homosexual who suffered from AIDS. Is it true?
The British police do not claim this! (I have never spoken to the Indian police). He was in perfect health. He had children and he was not gay. He was not a drug addict and was a caring son and brilliant father.
When was your last conversation with your son? How did it go?
The afternoon of December 7. He was very worried about the two men he was with.
Do you plan to come to India?
Yes, in the near future.
What do you think about the investigation into your son's death?
I cannot comment until the police have had a chance to solve the case.
Was your son an Indophile? Has he visited India before?
Tragically he chose Goa instead of Tenerife (in the Canary Islands) -- only two days before he left. He had never been to India before.
Why do you think he changed a few hotels in Goa?
He had planned to stay two nights at the same hotel as his friends. Then he went to Baga beach because he wanted to do some diving. He planned to travel all over Goa and not stay in one place -- just like any other tourist! On December 6, he had to book into the hotel in Panjim because he had been threatened and was too afraid to return his hotel in Baga. His drink had been spiked on December 5 and he found himself dumped in Panjim 24 hours later. He was afraid to return to Baga because he had been intimidated, so on my advice he stayed in the hotel in Panjim. [He arrived in Goa December 3 and was murdered on December 7].
The prosecution of the case will mean that the family comes to India. Is that ok?
Your son had come with a friend from London to India. Apparently, he left a week before your son's death? Who was this friend and what is his take on your son's death? Are you in touch with the friend?
Two friends flew from another town on the same day, on a different flight from Stephen. The two friends were staying in Goa for one week. They were not on holiday with Stephen, just met him socially for the first two days. They are back with their wives and children and are very upset. They live 75 miles from us.
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