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Goa murder: McLaughlin accused letter 'spurious'

Danielle McLaughlin Image copyright Christy Duffy
Image caption The McLaughlin family are awaiting the trial of Vikat Bhagat

Claims of innocence by the man facing trial for the murder of an Irish backpacker in Goa have been rubbished by her family's solicitor.

Danielle McLaughlin was found raped and strangled in the Indian tourist haven two months ago.

Police said Vikat Bhagat had confessed to her murder; he has now reportedly sent a letter denying the charge.

It insists he tried to save the backpacker as three other men smashed her head with bottles and rocks.

The 29-page letter to Mr Bhagat's sister, published by the oHeraldo newspaper, states that he was in a relationship with Miss McLaughlin, 28, who was from Buncrana in County Donegal.

It also alleges that three of his friends killed her, and he was unable to stop them because of a shoulder injury.

The letter says the 24-year-old suspect had been assaulted by police and forced to incriminate himself by putting finger prints on beer bottles.

Solicitor Des Doherty told BBC Radio Foyle the claims were "spurious".

"From a legal point of view, I deal with these types of situations all the time, but for the family it is extremely distressing," said Mr Doherty.

"I haven't seen the actual letter, I've seen photographic evidence of the letter and obviously it's written in a different language.

He said that in the letter, Mr Bhagat allegedly relates an entirely different version of events to those outlined by police.

"It seems to me to be highly dubious, spurious and self-serving," said Mr Doherty.

Ms McLaughlin had travelled to India in February to meet up with friends.

She was found dead in a field close to tourist resorts in Canacona on 14 March.

A post-mortem investigation found the cause of death to be brain damage and constriction of the neck.

Indian police have told Mr Doherty the Directorate of Prosecution would bring formal charges against the accused within weeks.

"We are told that everything that happened on the fateful day that Danielle was murdered will be explained in those papers," he added.

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