'I didn't kill Danielle - I tried to save her', says Goa murder accused
A man accused of raping and murdering Irish backpacker Danielle McLaughlin has claimed three friends killed her in front of him despite his trying to save her.
Vikat Bhagat, who is currently in custody awaiting trial, has written a 29-page letter to his sister detailing the events which he claims led up to Danielle's death in Canacona, India, in March.
According to the Herald Goa newspaper, Bhagat (24) says he was in a relationship with Ms McLaughlin but denies he raped or murdered her.
He claims that three of his friends attacked and raped her on March 13, and those same men smashed bottles and rocks off her head when she tried to fight back.
However, a solicitor for Danielle's family in Donegal has questioned the claims and argued that the reports are "unhelpful" for the case.
"We do genuinely find this all highly dubious, spurious and lacking in evidential substance," said Derry lawyer Des Doherty.
Bhagat repeatedly writes in his letter that he was in a physical relationship with Danielle, and on the night of her murder they were with others in a restaurant where they were drunk and smoking cannabis.
He claims they left to travel to Leopard Valley in Agonda, and on the way they decided to smoke one more joint at the place, which they frequented regularly. This was where Danielle (28) was later murdered.
"While sipping beer I received a call from a friend that they are in Leopard Valley and asked us to join them, to which I replied we will do in some time and informed them of our location," he wrote.
"I saw two bikes coming towards us switching off the headlights. They came to me, and when I questioned why they were here, [a friend] asked me to tell Danielle to have sex with them."
He claims Danielle slapped one of the men who then stripped her and raped her.
Bhagat, who said he was also attacked by the men, claimed: "I tried to save her, but since I had undergone shoulder surgery I could not help her."
According to the letter, Danielle started weeping and she slapped another man when he too demanded "sexual favours". Bhagat said this man smashed two beer bottles on her head and she fell to the ground.
The account says two of the men held her hands while the third hit a heavy stone twice on her head, after which she died.
Bhagat, arrested 24 hours after the murder, said he did not inform police for fear of blame.
"A day after the crime I spoke to [a friend] on phone questioning why they did this to which he apologised, saying it was a mistake and requested me not to spill their names if the police come to know," Bhagat alleged.
"We have to put faith in the appropriate authorities in India to investigate this fully," said Mr Doherty.