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How could my beautiful girl be stabbed 45 times and no one hear a thing? DAD'S QUEST TO FIND TRUTH OF HOUSEBOAT KILLING; EXCLUSIVE IN TOMORROW'S INTERVIEW WITH PRIME SUSPECT.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE FROM mark williams-thomas in Kashmir, India

WITH tears welling up in his eyes, Vic Groves sits on a bed on a houseboat staring at the spot where his daughter was murdered.

The tranquil setting on idyllic Dal Lake in India hides a terrible secret about the night British backpacker Sarah, 24, was stabbed more than 45 times in a frenzied attack.

On the second anniversary of her murder Vic has returned to the area near Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, to search for the truth of what happened to his youngest child - and only daughter.

Police say Dutch tourist Richard de Wit initially admitted the killing, claiming he was "possessed by the devil."

But de Wit has since told Vic face to face that he did not murder Sarah.

After walking into the cramped, woodenpanelled bedroom Vic struggled to hold back his tears as his thoughts turned to his happy and carefree daughter - and what happened to her the night she died.

Sitting on the bed, softly spoken Vic whispered gently: "Love you, Sarah."

He admitted: "This is the difficult room for me. It's very emotional, where my daughter died two years ago in horrendous circumstances. There just seems no rhyme nor reason.


"It is extremely peaceful at night. It is a very calm place in the world. How this could have happened here without people hearing I just do not know."

I joined Vic at the crime scene - a houseboat called New Beauty - so that together we could begin to reconstruct events of that night in April 2013.

Manchester-born Sarah had been living on the boat for two months with her boyfriend, Saeed Shoda, then aged 25, who she had met in Goa. The boat, owned by his parents, was his family home.

Dutch tourist de Wit, 43, had spent three days staying with the family, on board the boat.

He was arrested in the early hours after Sarah's body was discovered in a pool of blood. De Wit has been in a Kashmiri prison ever since, with court proceedings beset by constant delays.

After apparently confessing to killing Sarah, he now denies it was him that did it.

Vic, who has four other children, said: "She had a great time in Goa, the fun capital of India, and was persuaded to come to Kashmir - against our wishes.

"Whether she liked it as much I don't know. She was more locked in, certainly adapting to the local community, their habits, their ways. But it wasn't truly Sarah beneath it all.

"Clearly it was one of our aims to get her out of here. We know Saeed had persuaded Sarah to part with the equivalent of PS6,000, which was a great concern to us."

Vic and wife Kate had so feared for their daughter's safety in the strife-torn region that they had booked her a flight to Nepal, where the fitness instructor was to join a climb on Everest.

They had planned to fly out to meet her at the end - but Sarah never made the trip.

The family contacted me for help in examining the case because of their frustration at the police investigation and the endless court delays.

Vic said: "Any excuse you can think of has caused delays one way or another. We've had the kitchen sink thrown at us.

"What's taken two years could have been done in eight or nine months." After a month reviewing the case files, examining photographs and statements, I flew with Vic to Srinigar where we could examine the key elements for ourselves.

We interviewed the family of Sarah's boyfriend, and set out to check the statement given by Saeed himself. He had told police he went fishing with friends on the night Sarah was murdered. Witnesses we spoke to confirmed that account.

Vic had previously carried out tests at his Guernsey home into how sound travels across water. He wanted to establish if someone breaking into the houseboat, and the attack itself, would have been heard.

We also did sound tests on board the boat. The door to Sarah's room had been found smashed down, yet nobody other than de Wit reported hearing anything.

We found the door to be pretty flimsy - it would have broken with a single shoulder charge.

The horrific attack lasted between five and ten minutes, during which time Sarah was stabbed multiple times, in both the back and the front.

Her left hand was badly cut where she had tried to grab hold of the knife.

Such a frenzied attack would surely have resulted in a great deal of noise. The post mortem found no reason Sarah would have been unable to scream - although fear itself in such circumstances can trigger vocal paralysis.

We also asked Saeed's mother Hafiza, and her other son Aadil, to reconstruct everything they did that night. It was Hafiza and Aadil who found Sarah's body after realising somebody was moving around on the boat in the early hours.

Two aspects were especially striking - and disturbing. First, they described how the bedside cabinet had been on the floor, having been knocked over. And second, they discovered Sarah on the bed with a phone in her hand.

In the police photographs, the bedside cabinet and what was on it appear differently in different photographs.

And not one photograph shows a phone in, or even near to, Sarah's hand.

I have discovered that Sarah's phone records reveal the time of attack to have been around 1.47am, when she attempted to make a call.

But the number she dialled was incomplete and could not connect.

It is disappointing to establish that the crime scene was altered. This will raise questions as to what else had been moved by the police, undermining their investigation and potentially affecting successful prosecution of Sarah's killer.

Vic, 71, formerly owner of a number of successful IT companies, is convinced by now that Sarah was not killed by a random attacker.

He told me: "A third party, someone coming on [to the boat] in the dead of night and killing a very sweet, fun-loving young girl We have really dismissed that. We don't think that is plausible."

I agree with Vic that Sarah was murdered by someone known to her.


But as well as ruling out a stranger, Vic has now almost completely ruled out Saeed as a suspect.

And he is beginning to fear the man who assured him he was innocent could well have been the man responsible for Sarah's murder.

If 7ft tall de Wit were to be found guilty, Vic admitted he would be "gutted". He said: "If that is the case then he has misled everyone, lied to me, killed my daughter in a brutal way.

"That is the sort of guy you don't want to meet on a dark night. I reserve judgment at the moment. But how I am feeling at this instant, I will be pretty severe in my impact statement."

Revealing that he looked de Wit in the eye and asked him directly if he killed Sarah, Vic told me: "He said, 'No I did not kill your daughter'.

"I have asked him twice. I suppose I start from the fundamental principle that he is innocent until proven guilty.

"I can assure you that my attitude will change dramatically if he is proven guilty." Vic said his work investigating the case has helped him cope with the grief process of losing Sarah, who is pictured today in photographs newly released by the family.

He said: "We have all faced up to it in different ways. Her mother is definitely the worst affected, she has more time to dwell on it. And she had a fantastic relationship with Sarah.

"The two full brothers cope with it slightly different - they have got jobs to do. They don't actually like talking about it too much.

"For me it lingers on but I am solely concentrating on trying to find the truth.

"Once the truth has been found I think everyone will feel better - part of the closure process.

"I have got five children and Sarah was the last and the only girl. I have very happy memories.

"I have never heard a bad word said about her. There have been a lot of tragedies - and it always seems to happen to the really good people."


victim Backpacker Sarah lived on houseboat with boyfriend

suspect Dutchman de Wit, right, talks to Mark

last memory Vic and Kate's final farewell at airport

crime scene Vic sits on bed in room where daughter died Pictures: ROLAND

Tears: dad Vic, below on boat
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 19, 2015
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