Mother, friends of Irish backpacker murdered in Goa, tell of a happy, beautiful girl

Devyani Sultania
Punjabi woman sold as slave in Saudi Arabia for Rs 3.5 lakh

An Irish backpacker's naked body was found lying in a pool of blood on Tuesday morning by a farmer in a field hours after she was seen celebrating Holi four miles away near Deobag Beach in South Goa's Canacona city.

The body was found with severe injuries to the head and the face at an isolated spot in Adnem village.

Danielle McLaughlin, grew up in Buncrana in Ireland, posted her final message, along with a picture of a sunset, on Facebook saying: "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..."

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McLaughlin's death came as a shock to her family and friends, especially her mother Andrea Brannigan who has said that her daughter would be "sadly missed". She told the Sun: "The family would like to express our thanks to all who have got in touch since receiving this awful news. As you can expect we are finding it very difficult at this trying time. We want to thank the Irish and British consulates who, along with Colin from the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, and many friends who have assisted at this time. Danielle will be sadly missed by us all."

Candice Faulkner, who grew up with McLaughlin in Buncrana, said: "We are in shock. Danielle was an amazing person with so much adventure in front of her. Our small town is devastated."

The Facebook post is filled with touching tributes to the deceased woman. McLaughlin, who loved to travel, had a tattoo on her wrist which read: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery."

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Sun Ithilwen said: "She was a sweet beautiful soul and we spent a lot of time last year in Rishikesh when we met. Danielle had been travelling for a couple of years I believe, so she was not new to being alone in India."

"Rest in peace lovely. I hope justice is served for what this man did to you. No punishment he receives will ever be good enough. I didn't know you but I'm sending thoughts to your family and friends at this horrible time. I hope the love and support of the public can help comfort them in some way xxx," Jessica Louise Richardson wrote on the comment thread.

According to the Sun, around 200 local residents and travellers gathered at the spot where McLaughlin's body was found and held a vigil around 5:30 pm on Wednesday after hearing about the backpacker's death. They lit candles, offered prayers and sang the famous Bob Marley song No Woman No Cry.

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Fr John Walsh, the parish priest in Buncrana, where her family lives, said that McLaughlin's mother had suffered several tragedies. He told the Sun:  "The absolute horror of this girl's murder has stunned the community. We feel for her mother in particular and her siblings."

Rena Donaghey, a councillor in Buncrana who knows McLaughlin's mother and family, said that their grief is unthinkable. "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," she said.

McLaughlin studied in Liverpool, England, and lived there for several years after growing up in the northwest Irish town of Buncrana.

She had also worked at the PumpHouse Bar on Albert Dock before leaving the city to travel.

The staff at the bar said that they were in shock. In a statement, the bar said: "Very sad to hear we have lost one of our old team members Danielle McLaughlin in Goa this week. She was only 28. Deepest condolences to her family in Ireland."

The Goa Police arrested a 24-year-old man named Vikas Bhagat who has confessed to killing McLaughlin, who was seen at a Holi party at Palolem Beach in Canacona. He has been taken into custody while theinvestigation into the incident continues.

There are conflicting reports on whether Bhagat admitted to sexually assaulting her. Some reports say he denied the sexual assault while others say he admitted to raping and murdering the victim. The victim's body has been sent for post-mortem examination to determine whether Bhagat sexually assaulted her.

McLaughlin's clothes were found stained with blood in a backpack dumped in a field close to the house of the accused. Bhagat, who has previously been charged with several burglaries, was arrested after his Activa scooter and clothes were found covered in blood at his house in Canacona.

Bhagat was taken to the General Medical Centre in Bambolim before being taken into custody. The victim's body will be handed over to the family once the legal formalities are over, the police said.

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