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Home > India > News > Report

Scarlette's mom plans fund to fight cop-mafia nexus

The Rediff News Bureau | April 11, 2008 12:46 IST
Last Updated: April 11, 2008 12:50 IST

Scarlette Keeling
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Fiona Mackeown, mother of British teenager Scarlette Keeling who was killed in Goa [Images] in February, hopes to set up a fund in her daughter's name to fight for justice. Her target: the Goa police force which, she believes, is hand in glove with the drug mafia in Goa to hide the truth about tourist deaths.

Ever since Fiona's Scarlette's gruesome murder came to light, her mother has been in the eye of the controversy, for allowing her young daughter to explore Goa by herself while she went off exploring the western coast.

Today, as Fiona fights the authorities in India over the cause of her daughter's death -- initially passed off as death by drowning, before rape and drugs and murder were added to the cocktail -- the Daily Telegraph, London [Images], met the mother in England [Images].

Was her daughter's Goa sojourn a case of parental abandonment?

'She was nearly 16, an age at which many girls are sexually active and independent. In India they can be married at 13. I hadn't just left her -- we knew (Scarlette's friend and local guide) Julio (Lobo) well. I had talked to him about his intentions, watched his body language, and I had met his aunts with whom he was staying,' says Fiona.

'I let her stay on condition that be brought her to join us up on the coast -- which he did regularly -- and that he looked after her.'

What about Goa's drug and booze culture, wasn't she aware of it?

'I don't take drugs so I didn't know they were around and I didn't think Scarlette would take them because she had seen what they could do. She had tried weed but said it made her feel weird.'

Fiona's regret today is, 'I wish I hadn't let her go back to Goa after she spent a last week with us, but parents whose children die in car crashes have similar regrets.'

Fiona leads a gypsy-like life on her plot of land in north Devon, England, on which are some half a dozen caravans, a barn and a two-storied building, where she lives on State support with her nine children through four fathers. Contrary to popular perception, the place is spotlessly clean, and the children well-behaved and well-spoken.

In Goa, Fiona was initially told by the police that Scarlette drowned, something she believed reluctantly since her daughter was a good swimmer till she found Scarlette's shorts, torn scandals and bikini bottom. 'I knew then that there had been violence.'

'There was a bruise on her back made by a knee; someone had been holding her down while she drowned in shallow water.'

Fiona was always keen on leading a freer life than what she experienced at home as a child; plus, her own father left home when she was small. 'One-parent families were rare when I was a child. I longed for my parents to get back together. It's more normal now.'

The immediate task on hand for her now is come to term with her daughter's death. 'Children cope better than adults because they are more accepting. I manage best when I, too, accept what has happened, but I often wake up having forgotten. I suppose coming to terms with death means not having to forget.'

One way she tries to remember is by reading Scarlette's poems, in which the teenager's last words were: 'All roads lead to me.'

'It's about dying,' says the mother, reflective of ancient Indian philosophy. 'As I see it, she's not gone, she's not just in her body anymore and we can't enjoy her company'