British woman tourist is murdered on houseboat in Srinagar, India

Fellow tourist, a Dutchman, arrested for killing of 24-year-old Briton while trying to flee region

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 5:55am


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A young British woman on holiday in Indian Kashmir was found dead in a pool of blood on a houseboat yesterday.

Police arrested a 43-year-old Dutch national on suspicion of her murder.

He was taken into custody as he tried to flee the Kashmir valley in the foothills of the Himalayas, police superintendent Tahir Sajjad said.

"We walked into a pool of blood in her room," Sajjad said. "We found a sharp-edged knife close to her body. The young lady had multiple stab wounds."

The attacker smashed the latch on the cabin door of the houseboat in which the 24-year-old British tourist had been staying on Dal Lake in the Indian Kashmir city of Srinagar for two months, police said.

Officers were investigating whether the victim was sexually assaulted, in what is the latest in a string of attacks on tourists travelling in India.

A British High Commission spokeswoman said in New Delhi: "We can confirm the Jammu and Kashmir police have the body of a British woman. We have contacted the next of kin and we are providing consular assistance to the family."

She added: "At this moment, we cannot reveal the identity of the woman."

Police arrested the suspect near a highway about 75 kilometres from Srinagar and named him as Richard De-Wit.

"The suspect has been taken into custody on suspicion of murder and we are questioning him," Sajjad said.

De-Wit had been staying in the same houseboat, named New Beauty, as the victim and he had arrived two days earlier, police said.

He had allegedly fled in a small boat which capsized as he was trying to reach the shore, forcing him to swim.

The suspect was said by officers to be carrying only his passport when he was arrested.

"We flashed an alert for his arrest," Kashmir Inspector General of Police Abdul Ghani Mir said.

Last month, a 39-year-old Swiss cyclist was allegedly gang-raped and robbed by six men in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Also last month, a British woman dental hygienist suffered leg injuries when she jumped from a hotel balcony in the northern tourist city of Agra, fearing a sexual assault by hotel staff.

The safety of women in India has been in the spotlight since the fatal gang rape in December of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in Delhi, which sparked nationwide outrage.

Every year, thousands of tourists visit Kashmir, known as the "Switzerland of the East" for its snow-capped mountains, lakes and breathtaking landscapes.

Many stay on numerous brightly painted houseboats dotting Dal Lake.

The Kashmir houseboat owner was shocked by the British tourist's killing.

"She was very dear to me, she was just like my daughter," a weeping Hafeeza, who goes by one name, said.