Indian police suspect murder in British teenager's death

( dpa )- Police in the Indian seaside resort of Goa detained three youths on Sunday as they began a fresh investigation into the death of 15-year-old British girl whose half-naked body was found on a popular beach on February 18, news reports said Sunday.

Scarlette Eden Keeling's body was found on Anjuna beach in the early hours of February 18 and the police initially said an autopsy had revealed it was an accidental case of death by drowning.

A second autopsy was taken up after Keeling's mother Fiona MacKeown said the bruises on her daughter's body, her semi-nudity and the fact that there was very little water in her lungs indicated that she may have been raped and murdered.

She accused local police investigating the case of a cover-up and wrote to the police chief and chief minister of Goa requesting reinvestigation.

The second autopsy conducted by a three-member panel of doctors recommended in its report submitted Saturday that the death be investigated as homicide.

Contrary to the first autopsy report, which showed five bruises on her body, the second report recorded more than 50 bruises, of which almost half were ante-mortem, PTI reported.

"In my heart I knew that she was murdered. I am pleased that at least the second autopsy confirms our doubts," MacKeown was quoted as saying.

The police on Sunday detained three youths who were part of a larger group of young men seen with Keeling on the night before her body was found, PTI reported quoting police sources. They were being questioned and a search was on for four others.

The young men who were detained were known to have links with drug pushers and peddlers, NDTV television channel reported quoting police sources. They frequented the shacks on Anjuna beach, an area popular with new age travellers .

Keeling was on a six-month backpacking holiday in India with MacKeown , her mother's partner and their six children since November 2007.

The girl's death has thrown the spotlight on the dark side of the tourist resort known for its thriving drug scene and rave parties.

About 50 per cent of tourists arrested on drug abuse charges in 2007 were foreigners, according to the Goa police website.

Several foreign tourists have died while visiting Goa and a total of 17 cases have been registered since January, PTI reported. It quoted police as saying many of the deceased were found to be drug addicts.

A total of 59 foreign tourists died in Goa in 2007 and 55 in 2006. Police records reveal that in more than half the cases the cause of death was unknown and viscera tests that reveal drug abuse were not carried out.

Of the 17 deaths registered in 2008, viscera tests had been carried out for only six.

"Visit any rave party and you will find hordes of foreigners ingesting drugs," a senior police officer was quoted as saying.

The police in Goa have often been accused by anti-drug activists and locals of having links with the drug mafia.

India's stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act prohibits production, possession, buying, selling and use of any narcotic or psychotropic substance except for medical and scientific purposes for which licences are issued.

Punishments for offenders range from rigorous imprisonment of one to 27 years and fines of 100,000 to 300,000 rupees.

There are several foreigners lodged in Goa's Aguada jail on drug offence charges, PTI reported.

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