Danielle McLaughlin’s mum is hopeful six-year murder trial in Goa will end soon after ‘kick in the teeth’ decision

Danielle McLaughlin’s mother has spoken of her heartache at bail application and lengthy trial ahead of the anniversary of her killing

The body of Danielle McLaughlin was found in Goa in western India
Danielle McLaughlin, who was murdered while travelling in Goa, India in 2017.

The mother of a Co Donegal woman who was brutally raped and murdered in India has said she is hopeful that the end of a prolonged trial of the man accused of killing her daughter is in sight after six years.

Danielle McLaughlin (28), from Buncrana, was found dead on a beach in the Canacona area of Goa on March 14, 2017 after she had attended a party to mark the Hindu festival of Holi.

She had been travelling in the area with hopes of training as a yoga teacher, and following her death, a local man, Vikhat Bhagat (24), was charged with rape and murder.

He has denied the charges and also pleaded not guilty to violent robbery and destruction of evidence.

Andrea Brannigan-McLaughlin is concerned about security arrangements at the trial of the man accused of raping and murdering her daughter Danielle. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Andrea Brannigan with a picture of her daughter Danielle. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN

His trial began in April 2018, and the case has since dragged on, with Danielle’s mother Andrea Brannigan facing a recent “kick in the teeth” when Bhagat was granted bail last week to attend a family wedding.

Although he did not attend after all, Andrea told the Irish News that the granting of bail was further heartache for her family, who have waited almost six years for the conclusion of the trial.

However, a High Court ruling in India last year has placed a deadline for the trial to be concluded by July, prompting an increase in hearings each month, and Andrea said she is hopeful of a conclusion by that date, or a few months after.

“Learning that bail had been granted was really hurtful, another kick in the teeth for me,” she said.

“I can’t help but remember that Danielle will never get married or attend any weddings herself.”

Danielle McLaughlin had travelled to India with hopes of becoming a yoga teacher.
Danielle McLaughlin had travelled to India with hopes of becoming a yoga teacher.

As Danielle had travelled on a UK passport, granted as she was born in Glasgow during a visit to the city by Andrea, the UK Embassy in India had let her know of the successful bail application, which would have allowed Bhagat out of custody for five days.

“When I was told, I was really upset. I couldn’t stop crying all day,” she said.

“I eventually became angry. I’ve been waiting so long for the trial to be concluded, yet it seems like this was an insult to us.

“But I’m hopeful that a conclusion is in sight thanks to the High Court ruling. It has meant that there are more court hearings now than there was before. But I can’t view the hearings via a video link as I’ve been told it isn’t possible, which is frustrating.

“Danielle’s anniversary is coming up, and usually we would go to chapel, then go for a family meal, and afterwards visit the graveyard, but this year I’m not doing it, as I haven’t been in a good place.

Danielle was found dead after she had attended Holi festival celebrations in Goa.
Danielle was found dead after she had attended Holi festival celebrations in Goa.

“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about Danielle and the life she should be living now. I just want to see justice done and for this limbo to end.”

Andrea has praised the UK Embassy for their “amazing” assistance in recent years, including contacting her on Christmas Day to see how she was. However, she said the Irish Embassy in India has been “absolutely useless” with ongoing support.

Last week saw Donegal Sinn Féin TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn demand foreign minister and Tánaiste Micheál Martin call in the Indian ambassador to Ireland in order to answer questions on the case, including on its length.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Irish News: “Through headquarters in Dublin and our Consulate in Mumbai, the Department remains actively engaged on this case and continues to provide consular assistance.

“Officials in the Department’s Consular Directorate remain in regular contact with the family. As with all consular cases, the Department cannot comment on the details of specific cases.”