One a week: the scary statistics behind this fun-loving paradise

Locals in Goa are said to be shaken after Danielle's murder. Photo / 123rf
Locals in Goa are said to be shaken after Danielle's murder. Photo / 123rf

Far from the chaos of New Delhi and the hustle and bustle of Mumbai is Goa - a calmer, coastal oasis that's a magnet for fun-seeking backpackers.

It's not hard to see why. The tiny state on India's west coast is abundant with beaches, all-night parties, architectural marvels and places of worship - many of them Catholic, a legacy of Portuguese rule in this unique part of the country. Millions of tourists visit Goa's many beaches every year.

But there's danger in this hippie paradise, where one tourist is said to die every week.
This week, it was Irish backpacker Danielle McLaughlin.

'OFF ON ANOTHER ADVENTURE'

Danielle, a 28-year-old from Donegal, Ireland, had travelled to Goa with an Australian friend, reportedly to celebrate the colourful Holi festival.

She was found dead and naked near a beach in Goa's popular coastal region, hours after she had left a beach party. Police said the young woman had been raped and strangled, and her face had been mutilated with a broken bottle.

Danielle was found by a farmer in a large field, less than 2km from the popular Palolem beach. Police have charged local man Vikat Bhagat, 24, with her murder.

Danielle's death came just weeks after she posted a haunting, final status update on Facebook.

"Thank you to all my friends and family for making home so special and always looking after me.

"I am very grateful and the luckiest person I know ... Off on another adventure ...".

Friends are now locked in a desperate mission to raise enough money to bring travel-loving Danielle's body home.

Friend Christy Duffy described her as a "beautiful and kind-hearted, funny young lady who loved life and was a loyal and devoted friend, sister and daughter".

She added: "They say the brightest stars burn the quickest and no other analogy could describe Danielle's life better."

'I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH'

As Danielle's family struggles to come to terms with her horrific death, there is one woman who can relate to their pain: Fiona MacKeown, whose daughter was also brutally murdered in Goa.

The body of Fiona's 15-year-old daughter Scarlett Keeling found bruised and semi-naked on Goa's Anjuna beach. She had reportedly been drugged.

Scarlett, her six siblings and Ms MacKeown had been in the midst of a six-month family holiday in India when the tragedy happened in February, 2008. Last year, two men who had been arrested over Scarlett's murder were acquitted.

Scarlett's death shone a dark spotlight on tourist's safety in Goa, and also pointed to a botched investigation by local police: Scarlett's death was initially ruled as murder, but Ms MacKeown pushed for a second autopsy, which found there were more than 50 injuries on Scarlett's body.

This week, after news of another young woman's brutal death in Goa came to light, Ms MacKeown's heart sank.

"It is horrific," she told the BBC. "My heart breaks for her family and friends. I know what they are going through."

ONE TOURIST A WEEK

According to the Times of India, between 2008 and 2011, an average of one foreign tourist died each week in Goa alone.

Of the 161 deaths during those years, the cause of 53 were unknown. There were 25 tourists who drowned, 16 killed in vehicle accidents and 15 who died due to "natural causes", according to the newspaper.

A "majority" were said to have died due to drug overdose in the party-friendly state. Of the tourists who died overall, most were British and Russian.

Danielle McLaughlin's death this week also appears to have highlighted persistent crimes against women not only in Goa but India generally, despite the 2012 death of a young woman who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, AP reported.

In Goa, Danielle's death shook tourists as well as locals, according to The Sun.

"Everyone is deeply upset and ashamed at what has happened to a beautiful young woman enjoying herself in 'paradise'," foreigner Andreas Smith, who lives in India, told the newspaper.

"During their breaks many of the waiters have also taken flowers to the spot where Danielle's body was found, and said prayers for her.

"Everyone is very quiet today, very depressed. They are all talking about it."

The BBC reported that locals were worried Danielle's death would hurt tourism, which is a massive source of income for the state of Goa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's advice for travellers to Goa is the same as the majority of India, which is to exercise caution due to the threat of the high threat of terrorist activity, civil unrest and crime, and the high rate of vehicle accidents.

- news.com.au

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