British woman murdered in Srinagar houseboat, Dutchman held (Third Lead)

Srinagar, April 6 (IANS) A 24-year-old British woman was found murdered 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 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.

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