A young British woman holidaying in Indian Kashmir was found dead in a pool of blood on a houseboat on Saturday, police said after arresting a Dutch man on suspicion of her murder.
The 43-year-old Dutch national was taken into custody as he tried to flee the scenic Kashmir valley in the foothills of the Himalayas, police superintendent Tahir Sajjad told reporters.
“We walked into a pool of blood in her room,” Sajjad said. “We found a sharp-edged knife close to her body. The young lady had multiple stab wounds.”
The attacker broke the latch on the cabin door of the 24-year-old British tourist, who had been staying in the houseboat on the picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar for two months, police said.
The police were investigating whether the victim had been sexually assaulted in the incident, which comes after a string of attacks on tourists traveling in India. They said her body had been sent for a postmortem examination.
“We can confirm the Jammu and Kashmir police have the body of a British woman. We have contacted the next-of-kin and we are providing consular assistance to the family,” a British High Commission spokeswoman told reporters in New Delhi.
“At this moment, we cannot reveal the identity of the woman,” she added.
Police said they had arrested the suspect in a taxi near Qazigund, 75km south of Srinagar on the highway leading out of the Kashmir valley, and they identified him as 43-year-old Richard De-Wit.
“The suspect has been taken into custody on suspicion of murder and we are questioning him,” Sajjad said.
De-Wit had been staying on the same houseboat, named New Beauty, as the victim and he had arrived on Thursday, police said.
He had allegedly fled in a small boat which capsized as he was trying to reach the shore, forcing him to swim. The suspect was carrying only his passport when he was arrested, police said.
“We flashed an alert for his arrest,” Kashmir Inspector General of Police Abdul Ghani Mir said.
The Dutch embassy in New Delhi could not be reached immediately for comment.
The victim had been a regular visitor to the houseboat in Srinagar for three years, the owner said.
“She was like our family member and would often eat with us,” Abdul Rahim Shoda, the houseboat owner, told reporters. “She was like my daughter and my soul is crying.”
Shoda said he discovered the victim “lying on the floor, drenched in blood” several hours after midnight when he got up to do his regular prayers.
“I just went mad seeing what was in front of me,” he said.
Every year, thousands of tourists visit Kashmir for its snow-capped mountains, lakes and breathtaking landscapes, many of them staying on numerous brightly painted houseboats dotting Dal Lake.