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Scarlett’s mother charged over £50k benefits fiddle
Published on 19 Nov. 2009 11:20 PM IST
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The mother of Scarlett Keeling, the British teenager who was raped and murdered in Goa, has been charged with a £50,000 benefits fiddle. Fiona MacKeown, 44, is accused of obtaining £51,401of income support by deception. The charge relates to a three-year period between February 2005 and March 2008 - the month after Scarlett’s body was discovered on a beach in Anjuna in the Indian state. The 15-year-old had been on holiday with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and her six siblings, but had been allowed to stay behind with a boyfriend she had met in the tourist resort - a 25-year-old tour guide while the rest of the family continued their travels in the country. On the day Scarlett’s body was discovered, MacKeown had been due to be reunited with her so they could fly back to the UK to be with her son Silas, who was critically ill after being hit by a car. Police originally said Scarlett had drowned accidentally, despite the body being covered in cuts and bruises. But after a campaign by MacKeown, a second post-mortem examination revealed she had been drugged, raped and murdered. Last month, police filed lesser charges against two men suspected of involvement in the death. They are Samson D’Souza, whom a British witness reportedly saw lying on top of Scarlett outside a beach bar where they had been drinking, and Placido Carvalho, a drug dealer suspected of supplying drugs and sexually assaulting the teenager. The duo were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, assault with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty and administering a stupefying drug with intent to harm. Both have been released on bail. If convicted, the men could walk free within months. MacKeown, who lives on a remote smallholding near Bideford, Devon, said after being told of the charges she was ‘extremely disappointed’ that the men had not been charged with murder. Last night she told the Daily Mail she planned to dispute at least some of the charges against her. MacKeown, who is now breeding dogs and growing willow trees with a view to making fence panels from the branches, said they related in part to her continuing to claim income support and child benefit after the family left the UK to travel in India. ‘I don’t fully understand the charges against me but my solicitor is confident the amount I am accused of falsely claiming can be reduced. ‘I didn’t realise when I went to India that I had to declare I was going away.’ She said her second-eldest son Silas, 17, returned from India before Christmas 2007 to study for a school exam, so she still needed the benefits to ‘run the household’ and pay for his food, gas and other necessities. The Department for Work and Pensions is bringing the charge. MacKeown is due to appear before a court in North Devon next month. A DWP source said: ‘The allegation is that she basically claimed benefits but didn’t declare income.’

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