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Open verdict on British tourist found hanged in India

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Written by editor

Stephen Bennett, 40, from Cheltenham, Glos, disappeared four days after arriving in Goa on a pre-Christmas break in 2006.

Stephen Bennett, 40, from Cheltenham, Glos, disappeared four days after arriving in Goa on a pre-Christmas break in 2006.

His body was discovered in the village of Malsai near Roha, an industrial town more than 200 miles away.

Mr Bennett’s family has always maintained that he was murdered by gangsters.

However at an inquest in Gloucester yesterday, coroner Alan Crickmore recorded an open verdict saying there was not enough evidence for him to decide how Mr Bennett had met with his death.

The circumstances surrounding his death have left a series of unanswered questions.

Before he was discovered on Dec 11, 2006, he telephoned his family several times to say he feared for his safety. His parents, Carol, a lecturer in business training, and Maureen, believe he was murdered.

A British Home Office pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbeatter, who examined the father-of-two’s embalmed body, found the most likely cause of his death was hanging.

But the coroner said he had no way of knowing what led up to Mr Bennett’s death.

“It is more likely than not Mr Bennett went there effectively on holiday after the break-up of a relationship,” the coroner said.

“The evidence of his GP suggests that whereas he had suffered from depression when there had been critical incidents in his life, there is no medical evidence to suggest he was predisposed to killing himself.

“Having said that, it is seems to me to be clear that when Mr Bennett was found hanged one possible explanation on the pathological evidence is that he hanged himself.

“However it is equally the case that, on the pathological evidence I’ve got, I cannot exclude the possibility that he was killed. He may have been killed then hanged, he may have been hanged to kill him.

“It is conceivable but hard to justify that somehow this was a terrible accident.”

After the case Det Insp Steve Bean of Gloucestershire Police said six men arrested in India on suspicion of murder had pleaded not guilty and were due to stand trial. They are currently on bail and no date has been fixed.

Mr Bennett’s father said after the case: “I am disappointed and was hoping for verdict of unlawful killing. He was murdered in an Indian village.”

Previously Mr Bennett’s sister Amanda has said that gangsters in the region may have ordered her brother’s death as a warning to two other men who owed a drug debt of more than £40,000.