end in sight | 

Mother of murdered Danielle McLaughlin hopes to finally see justice for her daughter

'I continue to push for a conclusion to the court case, in the hope that I may then try and rebuild my and my family’s lives'
Danielle McLaughlin from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was raped and murdered in Goa

Danielle McLaughlin from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was raped and murdered in Goa

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The mother of Danielle McLaughlin who was killed in Goa five years ago has said she is hopeful that she will finally see justice for her daughter.

Andrea Brannigan's comments were included in a statement issued following a high level meeting in India between Goa’s Chief Minister, and two high level diplomats from Ireland and Britain.

The Consul General of Ireland Gerry Kelly and Britain’s Deputy High Commissioner in Western India met with Goa’s Chief Minister to seek the quick conclusion of the trial of the man accused of Danielle’s rape and murder.

Mr Kelly gave the Chief Minister a letter from Ms Brannigan requesting that the trial be expedited, and expressing her fear that she will never get justice for Danielle.

Danielle (28) from Buncrana, was found dead in a secluded spot in Canacona, an area of Goa popular with holidaymakers, on March 14, 2017.

Danielle, who had been using a British passport at the time, had travelled to India where she planned to train as a yoga teacher. The night before she was found dead, Danielle had attended a Holi party near Canacona beach in the south of Goa.

A local man, Vikat Bhagat, has been charged with the rape and murder of Danielle and the trial opened in 2018 but has been beset by delays.

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

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, Mr Kelly and the Deputy High Commissioner said ensuring a quick conclusion to the trial is a significant priority for the two governments, as well as for Danielle’s family.

Vikat Bhagat is accused of the murder of Danielle McLaughlin. Picture by Denise Calnan

Vikat Bhagat is accused of the murder of Danielle McLaughlin. Picture by Denise Calnan

“Ensuring a quick conclusion to the court case is a significant priority for the British and Irish Governments as well as, of course, for Danielle’s family,” the statement reads.

“We came to Goa together to do all we could to raise the profile of this case and express our concern at the pace of the trial and its impact on Danielle’s family.”

The deceased’s mother in the statement said she has done everything in her power to get justice for her daughter.

“I continue to push for a conclusion to the court case, in the hope that I may then try and rebuild my and my family’s lives with the knowledge that I have done everything in my power that I could possibly do to get justice for Danielle.”

In February we revealed how a new fast-track special court (FTSC) in Goa was being set up for expeditious trials and disposal of cases of sexual violence against women and children.

Danielle’s mother had been told by Indian authorities that the case is being mooted as the first to get under way.

“I’ve been told now it will be the first case in this new court, which will have a woman judge and a proper trial will finally be held,” Ms Brannigan told the Sunday Independent at the time.

“All we can do is hope that this will happen. There needs to be a proper trial. My daughter was murdered five years ago next month. And that man was arrested within hours. We can’t come to terms with our loss properly until there is a proper trial.”

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

Danielle McLaughlin's mother Andrea Brannigan. Picture by North West Newspix

Danielle McLaughlin's mother Andrea Brannigan. Picture by North West Newspix

She hopes that, finally, diplomatic moves between the Irish and UK authorities to ensure Bhagat’s trial will soon begin properly will come to fruition. Danielle was a dual British-Irish citizen.

“I have been let down before, but I really hope this time what has been promised now finally happens,” Ms Brannigan said.

“Danielle’s case would be perfect for this new court, and I’ve been informed it will be heard there and a proper trial will begin by the end of this year or early next year. I was promised at the beginning that he would have a proper trial that would be fast-tracked like the Delhi girl trial.”

The so-called Delhi girl case centred on the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in 2012. The trial of five men over the crime was heard at a specially convened fast-track court in the Indian capital. The suspects were convicted the following year and four were executed.

Late last year, Department of Foreign Affairs officials, along with their counterparts in the UK, were due to send a delegation to India to lobby for the trial of Bhagat to get properly under way.

However, the Indian authorities later cancelled the meeting and have yet to provide a new date for diplomatic discussions.

Ms Brannigan marked what would have been her eldest daughter’s 33rd birthday by saying she wanted to send a message of hope in recognition of how kind a person Danielle was and how she lived her life.

“During these uncertain times we are facing, I would just like everyone to remember to be kind, and on Danielle’s birthday I would love if people could remember Danielle by choosing kindness over everything else,” she said.

There have been numerous delays with Bhagat’s trial over the past several years. He launched a legal challenge to wearing handcuffs at one stage. Before that, he was engaged in a lengthy legal battle, which ultimately failed, to be released on bail because of delays caused by Covid-19.

Ms Brannigan said she would like to travel to India to witness the proceedings, but there is “no point” until the trial gets under way properly.

Danielle’s case was raised in the Dáil in October 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 consular work he could not discuss was continuing.

Ms Brannigan has kept the last text she received from her daughter, on March 13, 2017. “I’m safe. I’m with my friend Vikat and others,” it read.

Bhagat has been described by police in India as a gang member and has convictions for theft. Danielle knew nothing of his criminal past. She had met him the year before when visiting India and had struck up a friendship.

“She called him her ‘brother’,” her mother said.


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