Three years after the mysterious death of Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach, the body of the British teenager is still lying in a mortuary in the UK as her family awaits a CBI nod for her last rites.
Scarlett's battered, semi-nude corpse was found on Goa's Anjuna beach on February 18, 2008. The body was flown to UK in March that year. A charge sheet has been filed against two locals -- Placido Carvalho and Samson D'Souza -- who have been out on bail, while the case drags on.
"According to procedure, in cases where foul play is suspected or in unnatural death, the authority to release the body lies with the investigating agency. The agency would have to issue a no objection certificate to the mortuary stating the body could be handed over to the family," advocate Vikram Verma, representing the victim's family, told PTI.
The trial in the case began in April last year and statements of over 12 witnesses, including Scarlett's mother Fiona Mackeown, have been recorded by the children's court, the designated authority in Goa to try crimes related to minors.
In all, 72 witnesses are to be examined in the case. Scarlett Keeling, 15, was sexually assaulted and left to die at Anjuna beach Feb 18, 2008, allegedly by two beach shack workers. The police had initially dismissed the case as death due to drowning but after her mother alleged foul play, the case was transferred to the CBI.
The body of Scarlett has been since lying in Devon County mortuary with the Coroner's office in the UK. In such cases, the victim's family has no right to seek release of the body and the onus lies on the prosecution to issue a no-objection certificate which has not been done in the case so far.
The CBI is unwilling to come on record on the matter.
It has been a long wait for the victim's family especially the mother. Sources close to the family claimed that the CBI team was requested informally to release the body but "no one was willing to take a decision".
"Many postmortems have been conducted but the investigating agency is still unable to take a stand whether they want to keep the body or not," the sources alleged.
The trial was also dragging as the special prosecutor has recused himself from the case and the CBI was now sending another lawyer to Goa to represent the state in the fast track court.
A toxicology report had initially revealed Scarlett had consumed a cocktail of drugs, including cocaine, and alcohol. However, a second post-mortem examination showed that the teenager had in fact been raped, had 50 abrasions on her body and was killed when her head was forcibly held under water for five to ten minutes.
The family aide feels that it has been a long wait for them and expressed hope that the CBI would issue the NoC so that the body could be laid to rest.