Indian court clears men in death of British teenager in Goa

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Two Indian men were acquitted on Friday of the culpable homicide and rape of a British teenager in Goa eight years ago, a case that raised questions about the safety of tourists in the coastal resort and claims of police negligence.

The men were accused of drugging and sexually abusing Scarlett Keeling, 15, after a party, leaving her to die in shallow sea water.

Police originally said Keeling had drowned after taking drugs but changed their story after Keeling's mother complained, and a second autopsy concluded she had been raped and murdered.

The court acquitted the two men of all the charges, the lawyer representing Keeling's mother, Fiona MacKeown, told reporters. MacKeown said she was "too shocked" to comment.

A spokesman for the court was not immediately available to comment.

Goa's pristine beaches and laid back lifestyle have lured foreign backpackers and tourists for decades, but Keeling's mysterious death threw an uncomfortable spotlight on the easy availability of drugs and risks to women traveling in India.

Her death on popular Anjuna beach captured the attention of the Indian and British media and even inspired a Bollywood film.

MacKeown repeatedly accused the police of covering up the real circumstances of Keeling's death, and her lawyer Vikram Varma said the shack where Keeling was drugged before being raped had been pulled down.

He said her body organs were not preserved properly and the police did not ask for tests soon enough, damaging crucial evidence.

Indian media said at the time that there may have been an initial attempt by police to play down the death to protect Goa's tourism industry.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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