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Tuesday 16 July 2019

Mum of murdered Danielle may go to India to confront accused

Danielle McLaughlin was murdered on March 14, 2017
Danielle McLaughlin was murdered on March 14, 2017
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The heartbroken mother of Danielle McLaughlin has said she will "never, ever get over what happened" and may travel to India to confront her daughter's suspected killer.

Donegal woman Danielle (28) was killed while visiting India to learn to be a yoga teacher. She was found dead on March 14, 2016, and a local man, Vikat Bhagat, with whom she had been friends since 2016, is to stand trial accused of her rape and murder.

Danielle's mum, Andrea, said that it seemed "like yesterday" since she last spoke to Danielle.

"I spoke to her that day. I spoke to her every day on the phone, if I didn't speak to her on the phone she messaged me. Because I worry, she'd send me a quick message to say 'I'm OK'.

"On the 13th she messaged me and I was on the way to Dublin for a hospital appointment with her wee sister and she Facebooked me and said she was with her friend and with him, the accused, and she was safe," she said.

"She classified him as a friend, she called him brother."

Danielle was well-travelled and had spent time in Nepal, Goa and Australia.

She had planned to train in Goa as a yoga teacher and then travel to Canada in the September. It was her second time in India, a year earlier she had volunteered in an orphanage there.

"She packed a lot into her life. I wish to God I had told her to stay, to never travel nowhere, not even Liverpool but then she wouldn't have been the person she ended up being," her mother said.

Ahead of the trial, Andrea has been granted a special status which allows her to be party to proceedings, giving her the right to question witnesses.

She has hired a lawyer in India to represent her, and has engaged legal services here also. The family have already paid thousands in legal costs since Danielle's death but they will not know the full extent of the costs until the case concludes.

"I don't feel I've grieved for Danielle because of the fact that I'm always worrying about money, constantly worrying all the time," Andrea said.

"There's not a day that goes by that I'm not thinking, am I short now? Will we have no lawyer? Will it end up then that Danielle gets nothing?"

There has been consistent fundraising since Danielle's death - thanks to the family's close-knit local community and Danielle's friends - to help cover these costs, but Andrea said she would prefer to be able to concentrate on Danielle and grieving for her.

Andrea was also shocked to learn that the Department of Foreign Affairs can act only in an advisory capacity when a family lose a loved one abroad, there is no fund to cover repatriation costs, legal bills or any associated costs.

She may travel to India for the final part of the trial and also reserves the right to meet on a one-on-one basis with the accused.

"If someone asked me to describe her I couldn't explain it because she was just amazing," Andrea said.

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Irish Independent

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