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Bombay HC Transfers Probe Into Death Of Finnish Tourist Felix In Goa To CBI [Read Judgment]

The Bombay High Court has allowed a writ petition filed by one Minna Pirhonen, a Finnish citizen, and agreed to transfer the investigation into the ‘mysterious’ death of her son Felix to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A bench of Justices NM Jamdar and PK Chavan held that the state police’s insistence on the fact that Felix died while performing stunts indicated that the investigation being carried out by them was unfair and unjust.

The court took serious note of the rising number of such ‘mysterious’ deaths of foreign nationals in Goa and asked the state police to consider setting up a special cell to look into such type of cases.

Case Background

Felix Dahl, a 22-year-old Finish national, was found dead with multiple skull fractures and brain haemorrhage on an interior road in Canacona, South Goa. The Canacona police concluded that Felix fell by himself and died an accidental death. The petitioner, dissatisfied with this conclusion and the failure of the Goa Police to investigate the death as a homicide, filed this petition seeking transfer of the investigation to the CBI.

One Lenslood Fernandes, who knew Felix, said they ate dinner together on April 27, the night before Felix was found dead. He stated that Felix disappeared from the restaurant and despite Lenslood’s efforts, he could not find Felix. Next morning, the owner of Mini Goa Restaurant, Raju Ulhas Pagui, told Lenslood that one foreigner was lying dead on the road.

During the course of the investigation, no one of those present in and around the area where Felix died seemed to know what exactly happened to him. However, the police concluded that Felix was behaving abnormally and stated the cause of death to be –

“acrobatics like static jumping and cartwheels on the rocks at Agonda fell by unbalancing and accidental death.”

The petitioner received Felix’s body in Finland and got an autopsy done. Dr Edward N Willey opined that the multiplicity of injuries and depressed fractures suggest a fatal assault and not a simple fall from standing height on the road or even a hard surface.

The petitioner, who is a doctor in biological sciences, could understand the nature of the injuries and their implications. The petitioner also came to the circumstances in which body was found. She was convinced that such multiple skull fractures could not be a result of a simple fall on the roadside stones and the injuries were most likely due to an assault.

Minna’s continuous calls to the state police in order to investigate the homicide angle fell on deaf years. This is when a writ was filed.

Judgment

It was discovered that Lenslood had a couple of other men with him who had done some business with Felix and owed him some money. Also, the petitioner found out through an RTI query that all three, including Lenslood, had a criminal record. This aspect was not investigated by the police at all.

Upon examination of all the relevant material at hand and several judgments of the Supreme Court, the court noted –

“A healthy young foreign national was found on a small tarred road in the middle of the night with five fractures to skull, damage to the brain and intracranial hemorrhage with only his trousers and with no money. What would be a normal reaction at this scene. Filomena (witness), did not state that it was an accident. Nature of injuries and the circumstances indicated a strong possibility of homicide. In the entire investigation papers, there is no indication at all that angle of homicide is considered. Why not is the moot question.”

Further, the court observed how the police consistently pointed to Felix’s habit of performing stunts like cartwheels etc and said:

“In the final report it is stated that Felix had a habit of performing acrobatic stunts on beaches, as some of the witnesses had stated. This is different than falling on road side stones. Felix was a young boy of 22 years and physically fit. Occasionally cartwheeling on the beach is not an unusual thing. However, it could not have been straight away assumed that in the middle of the night on an isolated road Felix would do cartwheeling and hit his head and suffer multiple skull fracture lay there for hours without calling for help and pass away. Felix was not found dead at the bottom of a cliff to demonstrate death from a fall. His body was found on a tarred road, with border stones. The skull is one of the hardest bone in the human body. For the skull to have five life-threatening fractures with haemorrhage, it was likely to be a result of a violent force. What we find surprising is that this theory was not even considered as possible.”

Allowing the petition, the court said that the local police had chosen to steer the investigation clear of the angle of homicide, even though it was one of the strong hypotheses. Thus, the investigation will now be carried out by the CBI.

Read the Judgment Here

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