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Sunday 23 September 2018

Tragic Danielle knew the man accused of her rape and murder - pal

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

A friend of murdered Irish backpacker Danielle McLaughlin has revealed she knew the man accused of her rape and murder, it emerged on the second day of Vikhat Bhagat's murder trial in south Goa.

Yesterday's hearing was att- ended by two of Danielle's friends - Sun Ithilwen (49), an Australian citizen who works as a yoga teacher, and Deanne Evenrud (40), an American citizen - who live around the same Canacona area and knew Danielle (28) from her travels in India.

While Sun knew Danielle from their visits to Rishikesh, a hillside town in north India, Deanne befriended her at the same Holi party where Danielle was last seen.

Deanne said the event was a children's party to celebrate the Hindu festival of colours. It was "not the kind of wild tourist parties where everyone would be drinking or doing drugs", she said.

Deanne has been a frequent visitor to Goa and is currently camping in the tourist destination along with her children.

She said: "The accused, Vikhat, 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 help looking for emergency accommodation."

Danielle McLaughlin was murdered in India
Danielle McLaughlin was murdered in India

Body

Earlier in the District and Sessions Court of Margao, south Goa, a farmer who found the body of the Irish backpacker gave evidence.

Prashant Komarpanth found her body on the way to his farm on the morning of March 14 last year, about 150metres off the main road, and was the first witness presented by the state.

Yesterday was the second evidentiary hearing in the murder trial, and Mr Komarpanth told the court Danielle was found lying dead - with her hands and legs neatly outstretched - in an isolated stretch of land between Agonda and Canacona beaches.

In cross-examination, the defending attorney, Arun Brar De Sa, questioned him about the location where Danielle's body was found.

Komarpanth said: "A secluded stretch of land, off of the highway, is where Danielle's body was found. The area is often visited by couples and groups of tourists. They sit around and drink, and leave empty bottles around."

With that, the cross-examination ended, and officials set the date for the next hearing on April 24, when the court will call on the second witness, one of the mediators at the crime scene.

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