THIS is the man accused of raping and murdering Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin whose body was found near a popular Indian beach.
Police in Goa say suspect Vikat Bhagat ‘confessed to raping the victim and later killing her in order to hide his identity’, according to Indian news sources.
CCTV footage has emerged of the final movements of Danielle in the southern Indian state of Goa.
The CCTV footage shows Ms McLaughlin walking along a street with Bhagat, police have said.
Bhagat reportedly appeared in court yesterday after the remains of 28-year-old Danielle was found in a field on Tuesday morning by a farmer three miles from Palolem Beach.
Danielle, who worked at the Pump House pub in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, and studied at John Moores University, had reportedly travelled to Goa to celebrate Holi festival and was allegedly seen with the defendant just hours before her body was found.
Police Inspector Uttam Raut Dessie said: “Danielle and her friend, Megan, flew from Gatwick on February 22 and landed in Goa airport on Feburary 23.
“On March 13 she met Vikat Bhagat, a 23-year-old who was known to police because of his troubled childhood.
“He was a notorious person who had been arrested many times before.”
Inspector Dessie says that Danielle was seen with Bhagat in Canacona on Monday at about 9.30pm.
He added that a local called Prashant Komarpant found her body the following and called police at 8.20am, police say she had been ‘raped and killed’.
Inspector Dessie said: “We identified her body because of the tattoo and after interviewing many suspects we arrested Vikat on March 14 at 15.10.
“Vikat has an Activa scooter with red stains that we believe to be blood.”
Danielle was found several miles from a beach where she attended a party the night before.
Many tributes have been paid to Danielle.
Her mother, Andrea Brannigan, said she would be “sadly missed by all”.
She said the family were finding it a “difficult and trying time” since receiving the “awful news” about her daughter.
She also thanked the Irish and British consulates for their support.
A sp0kesman for Liverpool John Moores Univesity said: “The University is shocked and saddened to hear of the death of one of our former students, Danielle McLaughlin.
“We send our sincere condolences to her family and friends from all at LJMU.”
Staff at the Pump House said Danielle, who was travelling with a British passport but was originally from Ireland, was “so full of life” and worked behind the bar but “left a couple of years ago to go travelling”.
Pump House manager Tracy said: “She was a lovely young girl and so full of life. All the staff are desperately sorry and send their condolences to her family.
“It is a shocking incident – she was so young.”
It is thought Danielle had been living in Liverpool but moved back home to Buncrana, Co Donegal, Ireland, after her grandfather died.
Her family and friends were left devastated after being told of her death – and described her as adventurous, sweet and beautiful.
One friend wrote: “Can’t even say RIP to me old friend Danielle McLaughlin cause she was more of a believer in reincarnation… in having another spin round and no time for resting.
“So wherever ya are now Dani know that a lot of people are heartbroken today and the world is that wee bit sadder today having lost someone who added so much happiness to it.”
Rena Donaghey, a Buncrana councillor who knows Ms McLaughlin’s mother and family, described their grief as unthinkable.
She said: “This has come as a great shock. A young girl, an independent woman, heading off to do what young girls and fellas do these days.
“It is unthinkable what happened to her. And for her mother, being so far away from home, it makes it all the more difficult.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with the family, that they can get through this difficult time.”
Ms Donaghey said Ms McLaughlin had been studying and living in Liverpool before travelling for a time in Australia.
She was in her home town of Buncrana before setting off to India last month.
The Times of India reported that police are looking for three more people in connection with the murder.
A post-mortem examination is due to take place today.
Detectives are also studying CCTV footage from all the shacks the victim visited on Monday night, and are working with teams of sniffer dogs and forensic teams.
The police have not yet located the murder weapon.
A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British-Irish woman following her death in Goa, India.
“Our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time. Indian police are conducting an investigation and we are in close contact with them.”
Last night residents of the coastal resort where Danielle’s body was found say they held a vigil for Danielle.
Some of Danielle’s are planning on travelling from Australia to Goa to accompany her remains back home.
A repatriation fund has been set up and the Kevin Bell Trust have been engaged to help bring Danielle’s remains back to her sorrowing family in Buncrana.Tags: