Panaji: A children's court here on Friday acquitted two beach shack workers accused of drugging, sexually abusing and leaving UK teenager Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach in 2008 to die on the shore.
Goa Children's Court president Vandana Tendulkar acquitted Samson D'Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges in the high profile case, which had cast a shadow on the coastal resort.
Expressing deep disappointment over the verdict, Scarlett's mother Fiona MacKeown said, “"I am devastated, I am shocked."
A dejected Fiona said that medical evidence appeared to suggest that her daughter had been drugged, raped and murdered, but blamed the local police as well as the CBI for the acquittal of the two accused. She said that international tourists were not safe in Goa.
Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar termed the judgement as "unfortunate", but said it will not hamper the image of the coastal state.
"It is a heartbreaking judgement...I feel that such a outcome of the case needs to be challenged in the higher court," he said.
The 15-year-old's half-naked body was found at Anjuna beach in February 2008. While the police initially tried to pass off the incident as a suicide, a second autopsy revealed 52 injury marks on her body as well as traces of a cocktail of drugs in her system.
The police had initially dismissed it as a case of drowning, but later registered it as culpable homicide, after Fiona pressed for a second autopsy, which found that the girl was drugged and raped.
CBI, to which the probe was handed over later following repeated pleas made by Scarlett's family, had filed its chargesheet in the case in 2009.
At the time of incident, Fiona and her family were on a holiday in India. Fiona and her other children had gone to the neighbouring state of Karnataka, leaving the 15-year-old Scarlett to the care of a Goan family.
The police investigation had revealed that the girl who had arrived on the shack in the midnight, was allegedly offered the drugs and later sexually abused before leaving her to die on the beach. On March 31, 2008 her body was flown to UK and was kept at a morgue till June 16, 2012 when it was finally buried at her home in Davon.
The CBI had charged Samson of sexually abusing the girl and leaving her to die on Anjuna coast, while Placido was accused of providing narcotics to her on the fateful day.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Durgadas Kamat said the judgment is "unfortunate."
"This incident has brought shame to Goa at international level. I do not expect from the Chief Minister to say that Goa's name didn't get tarnished. It did get tarnished. We appeal to the CM that all possible legal help is given to the victim's family, so that justice is delivered," Kamat said.