Who Killed Scarlett? The most upsetting film I’ve seen in a long time

by Lynn Connolly


This Channel 4 documentary last night examined the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Scarlett Keeling and her mother’s relentless campaign to find out the truth about her daughter’s death and her fight to bring those responsible for her murder to justice.

If you missed it, here’s a précis to the terrible story… On 18 February 2008 Fiona MacKeown’s 15-year-old daughter Scarlett Keeling was found dead on a beach in Goa. Local police initially claimed that Scarlett’s death was an accident, but were later forced to admit she’d been murdered.

Over the past year, Fiona’s fight for the truth about what happened has put her in the international spotlight and caused her to be vilified by many who’ve more or less accused her of being responsible for Scarlett’s death; not her murder of course but the fact that she was in the situation which ultimately led to her death.


Fiona’s unusual and somewhat bohemian lifestyle was quickly picked up on by the media. She’s mother to nine children by four different fathers and lives in a remote corner of Devon on a smallholding so basic it has no electricity.

In late 2007 she took her family on what was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime to Anjuna in Goa which is a place famous for hippies and all-night parties. Fiona decided to see more of Goa and chose to leave Scarlett behind with a local tour guide with whom the family had become friendly. However, Fiona’s idyllic escape came to an abrupt end when she received the tragic news that Scarlett was dead.

An initial autopsy concluded that Scarlett’s death was a drowning accident, but if that were the case, why was her body was covered in bruises? Fiona arranged for a second autopsy which established that Scarlett was in fact murdered. Although two arrests were made shortly afterwards, nobody has yet been charged with her death.

Amid accusations of conspiracy and cover-up, the whole tragic affair has seemed to focus more on Fiona’s alleged culpability as a mother rather than the brutal murder and the fact that the Indian authorities – concerned about how a murder would affect tourism – have allegedly actively conspired to cover up the truth about Scarlett’s death.

During the programme, we saw and heard the distressing details of how Fiona had to basically become an investigator and how she had to examine Scarlett’s body herself in order to prove that she had injuries inconsistent with a drowning death.

Fiona had to take pictures of Scarlett in the morgue which showed a huge bruise above one eye, numerous bruises on her legs and shins, red marks around her genital area and, most shocking of all was a picture of Scarlett’s face and although that wasn’t shown on the programme, the details are horrendous…

This is only one of a series of terrible images of Scarlett's battered body

This is only one of a series of terrible images of Scarlett's battered body

The pathologists had cut open Scarlett’s face to get access to her teeth and to take dental imprints to verify her identity. They then crudely sewed it back up. What was left apparently looked like an atrocious clown-like smile stitched across the teenager’s face.

Two months after Scarlett’s death, the CBI – India’s highest investigative authority – took over the case and Fiona was finally able to return to Devon with Scarlett’s body. However, a British autopsy revealed that some of Scarlett’s internal organs were missing and as if she hadn’t been through enough trauma already, Fiona also learned that she might face charges of neglect.

However, nothing any authority could find her guilty of will ever come close the pain she herself has and the guilt she carries daily like a giant ball and chain because she didn’t take Scarlett with her when she continued traveling the area.

She’s been punished more than anything anyone could do to her in a court. And in India, Fiona’s making powerful and possibly dangerous enemies as she tries to keep up the pressure on the Government to solve the case.

During the making of this film, Scarlett’s mother discovered the following two emails, which had been sent by Scarlett to a friend shortly before her murder.

Her shocking final messages are frighteningly revealing about the days before her death. The emails have since been sent to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is now leading the investigation into Scarlett’s death.

The first email was Sent from Scarlett to a friend on 2 February 2008 and read:

“hey, i dunno man a lot has happend ere an its changed everytin im goin with XXXX {names are not disclosed for legal reasons} for 6 months an then from ther (Finland) we come bak 2 goa man mum said its a good idea an i relly wanna go coz then we goin belgium an portugal an peru an tailand and it all sounds so good but then i wouldnt c u guys 4 like years an that suks but i wld b makin mony man i dunno what to do man its tearin me apart but uva than that evrytins fine i got the sun the sand n the sea on my doorstep but i got fat man real fat lol an i shud be home soon il let u no the exact day wen im ther lol u sttil grounded?? skaz xxx”

The second was sent from Scarlett to her friend on 15 February 2008:

“hey man,my brother got hit by a car last nyt an we dont no wat his condision is an i went 2 a beach party in morjim last nyt took sum md an lsd an xstasy i was soo f**ed man an the police raided it an took XXXX hu is a frend coz he was havin a go at bin a dj they slappd XXXX an took him away i got draged away by some weird men an evryone else had leggd it an i was f**in buzzin man so i got a taxi bak to XXXX and slept ther but the boys showed me some hardcore porn movis on a phone then they all took it in turns tryin 2 rape me an i feel so sh** ryt now man love u man miss u man skaz x x”

By the time this documentary was over, I had nothing but admiration for Fiona. Yes she’s unconventional, yes of course with hindsight it was a hideous mistake to allow Scarlett the freedom that ultimately cost her her life and yes, Fiona leads a life that many would frown upon but one fact came over loud and clear; Fiona loves her children and showers them with affection and unrelenting love.

To have lost a child in any circumstances is bad enough but in these circumstances, the fact Fiona isn’t in a mental asylum is testament to her intelligence and the strength of her character. To have a daughter killed in the vicious way Scarlett was and to have seen the full horrific evidence of what was done to her must be a burden most of us cannot begin to imagine.

I hope she can eventually find some peace with what happened over Scarlett but I very much doubt she will. She’s paid enough already – and will continue to do so for the rest of her life – so now it’s time the media stopped obsessing about her lifestyle and look at this for what it really is; a horrific death of a teenage girl and a mother who wants justice for her.

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Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.