India: Arrest after British woman houseboat death

Indian police move the body of a British woman from a boat at Dal Lake in Srinagar. Picture: GettyAFP
Indian police move the body of a British woman from a boat at Dal Lake in Srinagar. Picture: GettyAFP
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A FEMALE British traveller has been murdered on a houseboat in India. Sarah Groves, 24, from Guernsey, was found in a pool of blood inside the boat yesterday morning on the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir.

• A British woman in her 20s has been found dead on a houseboat in India

• Dutchman arrested as police investigate death

Police said a 43-year-old Dutchman, Richard de Wit, had been arrested about 45 miles from the scene of the suspected murder.

Local police said the victim had suffered multiple stab wounds all over her body while a knife was found next to her.

Abdul Ghani Mir, inspector-general of Kashmir, said: “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.”

The Dutchman was said to have smashed open the door of Groves’ room during the night. He had booked into a separate room on Thursday, police added. Groves had been staying on the houseboat for two months, the owner said, adding that she had been “like her daughter”.

One of the sons of the houseboat’s owner, Abdul Rahim Shoda, is also reportedly helping police with the inquiries, though he was not arrested.

The police chief said: “While preliminary investigation has confirmed that the woman was murdered, we are investigating other angles. Forensic evidence is being collected.”

Forensic examinations were due to take place to determine the extent of the woman’s ­injuries and also whether she had been sexually as­saulted.

The Foreign Office would not confirm any details of the suspected murder yesterday.

The owner’s sons reportedly heard an argument and screams at 2.30am. The sons said they saw the Dutchman leaving the houseboat in a traditional shikara rowing boat, which capsized before he swam to the shore.

They then found the body of the woman with multiple stab wounds.

Kashmir’s deputy inspector-general, Afad ul-Mujtaba, said: “The girl went to sleep at about 12 o’clock and the Dutchman was outside until 12.30am. After that everyone, including the houseboat owner and staff, went to sleep.

“At around 2.30am, they [the owner and his son] heard some cries, possibly some quarrelling.”

Police have said that a knife was found near the victim’s body and there was evidence to suggest her room door had been forced open. It is believed that Groves and the Dutch tourist had been the only guests on the houseboat at the time of the attack.

The arrested man has not been formally charged.

One of the other sons of the houseboat owner said: “She was a wonderful girl, she had a good time with my family, she was helping my mother as well.”

The houseboat is one of hundreds of old floating hotels on the side of Dal Lake, which is a popular location with tourists and is referred to as “the jewel in the crown of Kashmir”.

Friends of Groves were last night paying their tributes on Twitter. One wrote that Groves was “one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet”.

Another said that Groves had been an “innocent, beautiful girl”.

A spokesman for the British and Commonwealth Foreign Office said: “We are aware of an incident involving the death of a British national in India. We have offered consular assistance to the family.”

The incident will be seen as a new setback to the struggling tourism industry in the Indian-administered Kashmir.

The number of female foreign tourists travelling to India has fallen by around 35 per cent since the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi in December, the New Delhi-based Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry said.

The high-profile incident sparked public outcry and protests throughout the country and tougher new laws and sentences for sexual offenders were introduced last month.