A naked dead body of a 28-year-old Irish woman was found on Tuesday morning at a secluded spot in Canacona sub-district in South Goa, India. The Canacona police said on Wednesday that they have registered a case under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and launched an investigation.
Sammy Tavares, the deputy superintendent of the Goan police said the body of Danielle McLaughlin was discovered in a field on Tuesday and an autopsy is being conducted to ascertain whether she was sexually assaulted.
"Her body was found in a naked state," he told AFP. "The body was lying in a pool of blood and there were injuries to the head and face." He said that the body has been sent to the Goa Medical College (GMC) and hospital, Bambolim to ascertain whether the woman was raped before being killed.
The police have arrested a 23-year-old local criminal, identified as Vikas Bhagat, based on the reports of a few localities who spotted him with tourist Danielle McLaughlin at the Palolem beach in south Goa on Monday.
"He has confessed to raping the victim and later killing her in order to hide his identity," Tavares said. The police have already recovered the deceased's clothes, they are yet to locate the murder weapon.
According to reports, the deceased had apparently come with a friend to participate in Holi celebrations before she was found dead on Tuesday. In a brief statement, McLaughlin's mother Andrea Brannigan said the family was "finding it very difficult at this trying time. Danielle will be sadly missed by us all."
Christy Duffy, McLaughlin's friend said: "Anyone who knew her knew that she was a beautiful and kind hearted, funny young lady who loved life and was a loyal and devoted friend, sister and daughter."
"They say the brightest stars burn the quickest and no other analogy could describe Danielle's life better," Duffy added. She has raised an amount of more than 15,000 euros ($16,000) to fund the repatriation of her body quickly.
Ireland said Glasgow-born McLaughlin also held a British passport, while Britain's consulate in Mumbai said it was working closely with local authorities.
The Irish foreign ministry said in a statement that its embassy in India was "following up on the suspected murder of an Irish woman in Goa."
"It has been confirmed that the woman travelled to India using a British passport, so the local British consulate has the lead responsibility in terms of dealings with the Indian authorities," the statement said.
"The Irish embassy is liaising closely with the British authorities and an Irish consular official is travelling from New Delhi to Goa today," it added.
Over the past decade or so, a number of foreigners have died in Goa, including 15-year-old British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling, whose bruised and semi-naked body was found in shallow water on a beach in 2008. The rising number of deaths, many in suspicious circumstances or from drug or alcohol abuse, has harmed the reputation of the Goa as a tourist haven.