Mother of murder victim ‘devastated’ as suspect cites Covid-19 to apply for bail

Danielle McLaughlin was found dead in a popular holiday destination in Goa, India, in March 2017.

Danielle McLaughlin
Danielle McLaughlin

The mother of a woman who was raped and murdered in India has been left “devastated” after her daughter’s alleged killer applied for bail citing Covid-19 delays.

Danielle McLaughlin, from Buncrana in Co Donegal, was found dead in a secluded spot in Canacona, an area of Goa popular with holidaymakers, in March 2017.

The 28-year-old’s alleged killer, Vikat Bhagat, has now applied to be released on bail, citing a “bleak” likelihood of a trial taking place in the near future due to the “prevailing pandemic condition”.

Danielle McLaughlin
Danielle McLaughlin was found dead in Goa, India, in March 2017 (Family handout/PA)

Ms McLaughlin’s mother, Andrea Brannigan, has told the PA news agency she is “terrified” the 28-year-old suspect will be free when he applies for bail on Monday.

The victim had travelled to Goa with an Australian female friend and the pair were staying in a beach hut.

They had been celebrating Holi – a Hindu spring festival – at a nearby village.

Speaking ahead of the court hearing, Ms Brannigan told PA: “I was devastated to learn that the defendant has applied for bail and it’s just brought all the horrific memories of what happened to my daughter back to the surface.

“I am terrified that the court is going to set him free on bail.

“It’s been four years since I lost my beautiful daughter and it’s as painful today as it ever has been.

“To have to wait this long for justice has just been truly awful for us and we cannot get closure until justice is done.

“I am really frightened that if the suspect is released and then flees from justice that our nightmare will go on and on.”

A post-mortem examination showed the former Liverpool John Moores University student suffered cerebral damage and constriction of the neck, causing her death.

Danielle McLaughlin
Ms McLaughlin had been travelling with an Australian friend before her death (Family handout/PA)

Radd Seiger, spokesman for Danielle’s family, said: “This is an appalling development in this family’s longstanding search for justice for Danielle.

“Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, we are rightly concerned that the person accused of Danielle’s murder, who has rightly been kept in custody since his arrest, is all of a sudden going to be released on bail, and that he will flee from justice.

“The family are very much in the dark about what is going on and like other families who are victims of crime abroad, struggle to understand the nature of legal proceedings in other countries.

“We will do our best to follow events closely and hope that the court does the right thing on Monday and deny the defendant’s application for bail, and that the path towards justice is not affected in any way.”

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