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Thursday 17 August 2017

Mother tells of heartache as police charge Indian with Danielle's murder

Danielle McLaughlin
Danielle McLaughlin

The distraught mother of Danielle McLaughlin has told of her heartache since receiving the news of her daughter's murder in India.

The 28-year-old Donegal woman's body was discovered on Palolem Beach in Canacona, a popular tourist area in the southern state of Goa.

Danielle, who was one of five daughters, left on a backpacking adventure last month and had been celebrating Holi, the Hindu spring festival, in the coastal state.

She was found dead with injuries to her head and face, believed to have been caused by a blunt instrument.

Confession

Indian police said they have a confession from Vikat Bhagat (23), a man from Canacona who it is claimed has a criminal record.

According to police, Danielle was last seen with Bhagat at 9.30pm on Monday.

Officers picked up a number of suspects, and during the course of interrogation, Bhagat's involvement "was confirmed".

Police said red stains on a scooter belonging to Bhagat were "apparently blood".

His clothes also bore what are believed to be blood stains.

"There were also some nail injuries found on the body of the accused," police said in a statement.

"Bhagat was medically examined at Goa Medical College Hospital in Bamnbolim."

Danielle's heartbroken family in Buncrana were yesterday being comforted as news of the tragedy spread.

Her mother, Andrea Brannigan, said Danielle was "very popular" and would be "sadly missed".

A statement read: "The family would like to express our thanks to all who have got in touch since receiving this awful news.

"As you can expect, we are finding it very difficult at this trying time.

"We want to thank the Irish and British consulates, along with Colin from the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, and many friends who have assisted at this time.

"Danielle will be sadly missed by us all."

A fund to bring home Danielle's remains raised €10,000 within two hours of it being set up.

Yesterday, the residents of Buncrana were still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

Rosaleen Grant, head of Scoil Mhuire which Danielle attended, spoke glowingly of the 28-year-old who had moved to England to study at Liverpool John Moores University.

"Danielle did her Leaving Cert in 2006," she said.

"She was a very bubbly, chatty person, a lively girl but very caring.

"This is a terrible blow. She was in the prime of her life. We always encouraged our students to travel before sett-ling down.

"Danielle was involved in our school musicals and also liked athletics and soccer.

"I remember her in the chorus in the school production of Grease. She was an all-rounder and happy-go-lucky.

"She received an award in the school for her charity work for Trocaire and St Vincent de Paul. She had a great heart and a very warm personality. She was young and vibrant and loved life.

"She had a great zest for life and loved travelling

"Our condolences are with her mammy, Andrea, and the four girls, her four siblings. It's a terrible tragedy so far from home.

"It's any parent's nightmare. As a school, we'll be keeping Danielle and her family in our prayers."

Science teacher Lorna Barron, who taught Danielle for five years, produced the school musical in which she appeared.

Angry

"Danielle could sing, dance and act. A very bright, intelligent girl who had a big heart," she said.

"She was always in good humour and wholeheartedly took part in school activities."

Yesterday, a stream of people visited Danielle's mother at the family home in Marian Park.

Danielle's family had suffered a number of bereavements in recent years, and locals said she had returned to Ireland to help care for her grandfather, Joe McLaughlin, who died in November.

Neighbour Valerie Doherty (71) said she was both sad and angry at the murder of "a lovely, bright girl full of life ".

"Danielle was highly regarded. She had her whole life to live and some b*****d cut it short. I feel very angry and hurt about that," she said.

"Her grandfather was so precious to her. I remember speaking with her at his funeral."

A local shopkeeper said: "Wee towns all over Ireland have had to deal with young people being killed in accidents abroad, but the way Danielle died makes it all the sadder and harder to accept."

People throughout the town and around Co Donegal contributed to the Go Fund Me site to bring Danielle's remains home.

"There's not really much anyone can say at the moment. I know we're all completely devastated," said family friend Christy Duffy, who set up the fund. This is to assist the repatriation and funeral expenses for our friend, Danielle.

"This fundraiser is to help her family with the added costs of having someone with her when she returns and to give her the send-off she deserves.

"There is nothing I need to say about Danielle as anyone who knew her knew that she was a beautiful and kind hearted, funny young lady who loved life and was a loyal and devoted friend, sister and daughter.

"They say the brightest stars burn the quickest and no other analogy could describe Danielle's life better.

"On behalf of her family, thanks in advance for the donations and keep on smiling as Danielle would have wanted."

Sympathies

Suspect Bhagat appeared in court yesterday in connection with Danielle's murder. He has been remanded in custody until Tuesday.

Police are reportedly awaiting the results of a post-mortem before deciding on whether to press sexual offences char- ges.

The mother of Scarlett Keeling, the 15-year-old British tourist who was raped and left for dead on a beach in Goa in February 2008, has extended her sympathies to Danielle's family.

Fiona MacKeown said her heart sank after hearing news of Danielle's death.

"It's horrific. My heart breaks for her family and friends. I know what they are going through."

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