Police in Cancona, India on Tuesday published pictures of the man accused of raping and murdering a British tourist whose naked body was found near a popular tourist beach in India.
Making the announcement, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sammy Tavares told reporters the suspect, Vikat Bhagat, has confessed to raping and later killing Danielle McLaughlin, a holidaymaker in a bid to hide his identity.
Bhagat was arrested after the body of 28-year-old McLaughlin was found by a farmer Premanand Komarpant,who was going to his field at Devbagh, Canacona at around 7.30am on Tuesday, and suddenly noticed a naked body of a female foreign national with her head smashed. He immediately informed the Canacona Police station about the incident.
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.
A Facebook photo posted by Danielle McLaughlin on her travels
The experienced traveller had suffered extensive injuries to her face and body after being beaten, and was found in an isolated area more than three miles away from Palolem beach where she attended a party the night before, police revealed.
The victim had the famous quote “Yesterday is a history and tomorrow is a mystery” tattooed on her body, which was lying in the fields around 200 meters from the road leading to Agonda. The tatoo was ultimately used to identify the dead woman.
Ms McLaughlin had travelled to southern Goa from Ireland to celebrate the festival of Holi. Her body was found two days after she arrived
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.
Police activity at the scene where Danielle McLaughlin’s battered and bruised body was found
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 the Herald that she travelled from Arambol to Canacona on Sunday, and was staying with a friend who lives on the road leading to Agonda.
Investigators identified the missing British tourist her tattoo
Injuries on Danielle McLaughlin’s body indicated she had been battered during the rape
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.
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.
Bhagat appeared in court and was remanded in custody. He was charged with murder
The Times of India
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.
McLaughlin reportedly, attended a party on Palolem beach before she was found dead. She was seen with Bhagat hours before her body was found a few miles from the beach on Tuesday by a local farmer
“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”, that detectives used it to identify her.
The dead woman had been seen with the confessed killer just hours before her body was found. he said he killed her to hide his identity
It is understood Ms McLaughlin grew up with her grandparents and had returned to Buncrana last year when her grandfather died.
her friends said 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.
McLaughlin arrived at the popular tourist spot on Sunday to attend the Holi festival
Ms McLaughlin previously worked as a bartender at the Pumphouse pub in Liverpool’s Albert Dock for around a year before leaving ” a couple of years ago to go travelling”, said staff.
Manager Tracy Leigh told the Liverpool Echo: “She was a lovely young girl and so full of life.
“All the staff are desperately sorry and send their condolences to her family.
“It is a shocking incident – she was so young.”
A post on the pub’s Facebook page stated: “Very sad to hear we have lost one of our old team members Danielle McLaughlin in Goa this week. She was only 28. Goodbye Danielle. Deepest condolences to her family in Ireland.”
Heartbroken friends have paid tribute to the holidaymaker on Facebook – where Ms McLaughlin gave updates about her travels – and described her as adventurous, sweet and beautiful.
One friend wrote: “Can’t even say RIP to me old friend Danielle Mc Laughlin cause she was more of a believer in reincarnation….in having another spin round and no time for resting.
“So wherever ya are now Dani know that a lot of people are heartbroken today and the world is that wee bit sadder today having lost someone who added so much happiness to it.”
McLaughlin [left], has been described as outgoing, an experienced traveller
Another friend added: “Such devastating news, I’m in total shock, Danielle was a beautiful girl inside and out, my thoughts are with her mum and sisters.”
A friend who lived in Goa wrote: “She was a sweet beautiful soul and we spent a lot of time last year in Rishikesh when we met.
“Danielle had been traveling for a couple of years I believe, so she was not new to being alone in India.”
A fellow traveller in Goa wrote: “Dark days under the sunshine.. RIP beautiful Danielle. From the lawless land with a rottenheart [sic]”.
On February 22, Ms McLaughlin posted a photo of a sunset to let her friends know that she was travelling to Goa.
She wrote: “Thank you to all my friends and family for making home so special and always looking after me. I am very grateful and the luckiest person I know…Off on another adventure…”
Earlier in February she thanked friends for their birthday wishes.
Her Facebook profile indicated that she studied at Liverpool John Moores University.
Danielle McLaughlin posted this update on Facebook last month announcing what turned out to be her last adventure
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.
An obituray posted on Facebook by former co-workers mourned the passing of Ms McLaughlin
Businessman Divyam Sugeet told local media that her body was found in a field off a road leading to Agonda.
He added: “I was at the crime scene, it was really horrible. The whole community is shaken up.”
Indian media have drawn comparisons to the death of British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling, 15, who drowned in the north of Goa in 2008.
Last September two men charged with drugging and raping her before leaving her unconscious on the beach where she died were cleared by a judge.