Wednesday 28 June 2017

'I tried to save her' - Murder accused claims three friends killed Irish backpacker Danielle McLaughlin

  • Vikat Bhagat writes 29-page letter to his sister outlining events of night
  • He claims three friends raped Danielle McLaughlin before beating her to death
  • Lawyer for Donegal woman's family describes letter as 'highly dubious and spurious'
Left: Danielle McLaughlin was murdered at Indian tourist destination. Centre: Vigil held in memory of victim. Right: Vikat Bhagat (23) has been arrested in connection with the murder
Left: Danielle McLaughlin was murdered at Indian tourist destination. Centre: Vigil held in memory of victim. Right: Vikat Bhagat (23) has been arrested in connection with the murder
Danielle McLaughlin. Photo: PA
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

A man accused of the rape and murder of Irish backpacker Danielle McLaughlin has now claimed three friends killed her in front of him.

Vikat Bhagat, who is currently in custody awaiting trial, has written a 29-page letter to his sister detailing the events which he claims led up to her death in Canacona, India in March.

According to the Herald Goa, Bhagat claims he was in a relationship with Ms McLaughlin but denies that he raped or murdered her.

The 24-year-old claims that three of his friends attacked and raped her on March 13. And that these men smashed bottles and rocks off her head when she tried to fight back.

Danielle McLaughlin meets local children on her travels
Danielle McLaughlin meets local children on her travels

However a solicitor for Ms McLaughlin's Donegal-based family has questioned the claims and argued that the reports are unhelpful for the case.

Derry based lawyer Des Doherty said: "We do genuinely find this all highly dubious, spurious and lacking in evidential substance."

According the Herald Goa, Bhagat repeatedly writes in his letter that he was in a physical relationship with Ms McLaughlin. He says that on the night he and Ms McLaughlin were with others in a restaurant where they were drunk and smoking cannabis.

He claims that they left to travel to Leopard Valley in Agonda and on the way they decided to smoke one more cannabis joint at the place, which they frequented regularly. This was where Ms McLaughlin (28) was later murdered.

"While sipping beer I received a call from (a friend) that they are in Leopard Valley and asked us to join them, to which I replied we will do in sometime and informed them of our location," he wrote in the letter.

Bhagat reportedly writes: "I saw two bikes coming towards us switching off the headlights. They came to me, when I questioned why they were here, (friend) asked me to tell Danielle to have sex with them.”

He claims Ms McLaughlin slapped one of the men who then stripped her and raped her.

Bhagat, who said that he was also attacked by the men, claimed: "I tried to save her, but since I had undergone shoulder surgery, I could not help her."

Vikat Bhagat
Vikat Bhagat

According to the letter Ms McLaughlin started weeping and she slapped another man when he too demanded "sexual favours". Bhagat said this man smashed two bottles of beer on her head and she fell to the ground.

According to the account two of the men held her hands while the third hit a heavy stone twice on her head after which she died.

Bhagat, who was arrested just 24 hours after the murder, claimed he didn't inform police because he feared he would be blamed for the murder.

Bhagat said, he was scared by the turn of events and did not inform the police fearing he would be blamed for the murder.

Danielle McLaughlin
Danielle McLaughlin

"A day after the crime I spoke to (friend) on phone questioning why they did this to which he apologised saying it was a mistake and requested me not to spill their names if the police come to know," Bhagat alleged.

Des Doherty, solicitor for Ms McLaughlin's family, said they were aware of the report and said they have heard these allegations before.

"There is nothing new in them. We have to put faith in the appropriate authorities in India to investigate this fully.

"If what is being alleged has any substance it should be brought to the attention of the police in India.

"From our latest dealings with the police we know that a file is being sent to the director of public prosecutions over there. It is important not to confirm or accept anything that is reported in the media because it has all sorts of evidential and legal problems. This is clearly made up of hearsay."

The Derry-based solicitor said: "We do genuinely find this all highly dubious, spurious and lacking in evidential substance."

He said his clients found it unhelpful and upsetting to learn of this in the media and they do not want anything to prejudice a trial.

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