British woman found dead on houseboat in Srinagar; Dutchman held

Last Updated: Sat, Apr 06, 2013 16:44 hrs

Srinagar: A 24-year-old British woman was found murdered on Saturday in a houseboat on Dal Lake here and the alleged murderer - a Dutch national, living on the same boat - has been arrested and has confessed to the crime, police said.

The Dutchman had fled the houseboat early on Saturday morning, but police found him at south Kashmir's Qazigund town. He was brought back to Srinagar and confessed to the murder. A case of murder has been registered in the Ram Munshi Bagh police station.

"A general alert was sounded across the Valley for the arrest of De-wit Richard, who had left the houseboat in the wee hours Saturday. He was arrested at Qazigund," said Deputy Inspector General (DIG), central Kashmir range, Syed Afadul Mujtaba,

Qazigund in Anantnag district is about 80 km from Srinagar.

"He (Richard) had left all his belongs in the houseboat, and had fled with just his passport. He has been brought to Srinagar," the police officer said.

Police sources said the arrested foreigner had confessed murdering the woman, but was refusing to accept he had sexually assaulted the woman.

Police officials said they are awaiting the autopsy report to establish whether the woman had been raped before the murder.

A senior police officer told IANS that a team of doctors at the super specialty Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura conducted the autopsy. According to hospital sources, it confirmed the woman died of multiple stab wounds.

Authorities have already got into touch with the British High Commission in Delhi and also spoken to the father of the victim on phone in Britain.

The owner of the "New Beauty" houseboat told IANS that the 24-year-old British woman victim had been staying in the houseboat for nearly two months. The Dutchman had only begun his stay on the boat two days back, in a room adjacent to the British tourist's.

Abdul Rahim Shoda, owner of the houseboat, said he found the body of the woman with stab wounds in her room on the houseboat Saturday morning.

"I immediately reported the matter to police," Shoda said.

"To reach the bank of the Lake, Richard used a small shikara (boat) attached to the houseboat. The shikara had capsized some distance from the houseboat, but he must have managed to reach the bank," Shoda said.

The 18 sq km Dal Lake in Srinagar is dotted with over 1,000 houseboats. Along the lake's shoreline are many vast gardens that go back to the Mughal era.

George Harrison of the Beatles famously lived in a houseboat and learnt to play the sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar in the 1960s.

Last year, over a million tourists visited the Kashmir Valley; over 20,000 of them were foreigners.

UK offers assistance

The UK has offered consular assistance to the family of the British woman saying that it is following up the case with local authorities.

"We are aware of an incident involving the death of a British national in India. We have offered consular assistance to the family," a spokesperson of the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

The FCO had only recently eased restrictions on travel to Jammu and Kashmir in its advice to British nationals.

"The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, and the region of Ladakh," reads its latest travel advisory for the region, updated on April 2.

"There has been an overall decline in violence in the state in recent years and an increase in the numbers of Indian and western tourists. There have been no recent reported attacks on visitors in the cities of Srinagar or Jammu," it adds.

A Dutch man, 43-year-old Richard De Wit, has been detained by police after 24-year-old Sara Elizabeth was found dead inside her room in a houseboat on Dal Lake.

The woman had apparently been stabbed and local police said she was found in a pool of blood with a sharp knife nearby.

Senior police officer Abdul Ghani Mir has been quoted here as saying that the man was picked up as he tried to flee the valley with only his passport.

"The Dutch national had fled from the houseboat in the night, leaving behind his belongings. He was trying to flee from the valley, carrying only his passport. We flashed an alert for his arrest," he said.

The body has been sent for medical examination to determine whether the woman was sexually assaulted before being killed.

The British tourist had been staying on the houseboat for over a month and the Dutch man had moved into an adjacent room two days ago.

Local police are investigating whether they knew each other.

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