Tuesday 21 August 2018

Witness in Danielle McLaughlin murder trial 'received threatening calls from associates of accused'

Danielle McLaughlin was murdered in India
Danielle McLaughlin was murdered in India
Danielle McLaughlin
Danielle McLaughlin pictured in Bali
Danielle McLaughlin was murdered on March 14, 2017
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A WITNESS who gave evidence in the trial of a man accused of raping and murdering a young Irish woman in India was allegedly harassed by the accused's associates.

The trial of Vikat Bhagat is continuing before judge Sayonara Telles in Goa. Bhagat is accused of murdering and raping Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin in March 2017.

At today's hour-long hearing the judge instructed the media not to report on the witness's evidence or name.

According to sources threatening phone calls were made to the first witness in the trial and it is alleged these calls were from members of the gang Bhagat is believed to belong to.

Danielle (28), from Buncrana, Co Donegal was travelling in India where she planned to train as a yoga teacher. The night before she was found dead Danielle attended a Holi party near Canacona beach in the south of Goa.

Today's evidence was critical to the Mediator’s report process of the investigation. The Mediator’s reports record all pieces of evidence found at the scene, including a sketch and description of the scene, along with noting the persons present at the scene of the offense. All articles are then stored in a sealed envelope to be presented to the court during the trial and are critical to the court’s proceedings.

Vikhat Bhagat, accused of raping and murdering Danielle McLaughlin, is escorted by a police officer in India
Vikhat Bhagat, accused of raping and murdering Danielle McLaughlin, is escorted by a police officer in India

The cross-examination of the witness will continue on the 3rd of April by defense attorney Arun Brar De Sa.

The 23-year-old local man standing trial has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, murder, violent robbery and destruction of evidence.

According to the charge sheet filed by the Goa police, the accused struck Danielle with a beer bottle when she tried to resist him before he raped and strangled her.

Bhagat is a known criminal in the Tembe Vaddo area, where he and his associates have often been booked for petty crimes.

Speaking outside court Deanne Evenrud, a friend of Danielle who is attending the trial on behalf of the family, said Danielle was taking Bhagat's help looking for accommodation in the area.

Ms Evenrud said the party attended by Danielle on the night she was killed was a children's Holi party that had been happening every year for the last 10 years.

"[It was] not the kind of wild tourist parties where everyone would be drinking or doing drugs,” she said.

“The accused, Vikat Bhagat, was locally known as a criminal and committed petty crimes such as thefts and burglaries. But we had never thought that he could be such a violent aggressor, who could pose a danger to someone’s life. Danielle knew him from her previous visits to India and was taking his hep looking for emergency accommodation in the area.”

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