Man facing rape and murder charges over Irish woman’s death in Goa

Danielle McLaughlin who was discovered dead in Canacona, a popular tourist area in the south of Goa. Press Association
Danielle McLaughlin who was discovered dead in Canacona, a popular tourist area in the south of Goa. Press Association

The suspect in the killing of an Irish woman at a tourist resort in Goa will face murder and rape charges, police in the Indian state have said.

Umesh Gaonkar, a superintendent with Goa Police, said a post-mortem examination showed that Danielle McLaughlin suffered cerebral damage and constriction of the neck, causing her death.

The 28-year-old victim from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was found dead in a secluded spot in Canacona, a popular area for holidaymakers, on Tuesday morning.

Local media reported the former Liverpool John Moores University student was discovered unclothed and she had marks on her head and face.

Mr Gaonkar said a suspect, a local criminal arrested a day after a farmer discovered Ms McLaughlin’s body, would face rape and murder charges.

She had travelled to Goa with an Australian female friend and the pair were staying in a beach hut.

They had been celebrating Holi – a Hindu spring festival – on Monday night at a nearby village.

She left the village late at night and her body was found the next day, said Mr Gaonkar.

CCTV footage has emerged of Ms McLaughlin’s final movements in which she is seen apparently walking along a street with the suspect.

Deputy superintendent Sammy Tavares told local reporters that a man named Vikas Bhagat, 24, had been arrested.

Bhagat had confessed to raping the victim and killing her, he said.

A two-wheeled vehicle and some clothes, reported to have bloodstains on them, have also been seized as part of the investigation.

Christy Duffy, a close friend of Ms McLaughlin’s from Buncrana, told the Press Association her body has been released from the post-mortem and would likely begin a journey home to Ireland on Friday.

It is expected her remains will travel to Mumbai, Dubai and then Dublin.

The journey is expect to take up to six days, prolonging an agonising wait for her heartbroken mother Andrea Brannigan.

Ms McLaughlin was the eldest of her five daughters.

“Two friends who reside in Australia are currently travelling to Goa to meet with the body to accompany it for the repatriation process,” Mr Duffy said.

He has raised more than 30,000 euro (£26,000) to help with the costs and to “give her the send-off she deserves”.

Thanking donors “from the bottom of my heart”, Mr Duffy said it “has taken additional stress out of the equation, the family are holding up as well as can be expected and will be relieved to have her back on home soil”.