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Diplomats in India to discuss five-year wait for Danielle murder trial in Goa

Mother of woman (28) who was killed in 2017 says she has been let down by Irish officials and hopes meeting will lead to case being fast-tracked


Danielle McLaughlin who was murdered in 2017

Danielle McLaughlin who was murdered in 2017

Danielle McLaughlin who was murdered in 2017

A high-level meeting has been held over the stalled trial in India of the man accused of raping and murdering Donegal backpacker Danielle McLaughlin five years ago.

Diplomats from Ireland and England travelled to Goa last week and met the state’s chief minister to discuss Ms McLaughlin’s murder.

Her mother, Andrea Brannigan, told the Sunday Independent she is hoping the meeting will help speed up the trial of the man accused of her murder.  

“I am hopeful now that the trial will finally be fast-tracked,” she said.

“We are only on witness 11 out of 58.

“I want to travel over to the trial but at the moment there is no point.

“We just want justice for Danielle.

“The case might need to be moved to a different court, that was part of the discussions.

“I am pleased this meeting took place, now we finally just need to see the trial get under way properly.”  

Ms McLaughlin (28), of Buncrana, Co Donegal, was murdered in March 2017.

Her body was found in a field between the Agonda and Canacona beaches in south Goa.

Her friend, Vikat Bhagat, was charged with her murder.  He denies the charge.

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His trial began in July 2017 but has been hampered by delays — the court sitting for about half an hour, once a month.

Ms Brannigan, who met then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over her daughter’s case in 2018, has been calling on the Government to intervene for some time.

She hopes that now, finally, the diplomatic moves that are afoot will ensure Mr Bhagat’s trial will soon begin properly. For Ms Brannigan and Danielle’s four younger sisters, life is on hold until then.

“We haven’t been able to come to terms with our loss properly. How can we?” Ms Brannigan said.

“I have been promised so much by the Irish Embassy and the Government.

“I was promised at the beginning that he (Mr Bhagat) would have a proper trial, and that it would be fast-tracked, but it hasn’t happened.

“I’ve been promised a lot of help from the Government over the years, but it hasn’t happened.

“I’ve been let down too much, now I really need them to do something and quickly.

“I would go over to India if there was a proper trial running every day.

“But at the moment there’s no point in travelling all the way over to possibly see trial proceedings for half an hour before it’s adjourned again.”

Mr Bhagat appeared in court in October, but the court only heard details of his ongoing legal challenge to wearing handcuffs, which began in January 2019, rather than answering charges of murdering Danielle.

Before this, he was engaged in a lengthy legal battle, which ultimately failed, to be released on bail because of delays caused by Covid-19.

Danielle’s case was raised in the Dáil last year by family friend and local Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, who asked Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney about what help was being provided to her family.

Mr Coveney said he remained “fully committed to the case” and that confidential consular work was continuing.

“Pádraig knew Danielle since the day she was born,” Ms Brannigan said. “After Danielle was found, he was in our house for days. His help now is not political, he’s a family friend.

“I can’t even remember those first few days after Danielle was found, so much of it is a blur.”

She has kept the last text she received from her daughter. Dated March 13, 2017, it reads: “I’m safe. I’m with my friend Vikat and others.”

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