BRIT backpacker Danielle McLaughlin was gang raped before being slashed to death with a broken beer bottle, according to her family’s lawyer.
The explosive claims cast huge doubt on the police investigation in Goa, India, where the part-Irish woman was murdered last week.
And it could mean that while prime suspect Vikat Bhagat, 23, remains in police custody, other alleged attackers could be long-gone.
“Danielle was 5’8” tall and she was really strong. This fellow Bhagat, he does not look strong and muscular”, lawyer Vikram Varma told MailOnline.
“I doubt he had the strength to overcome Danielle on his own. If she was intoxicated there would have been no need for the terrible injuries she suffered”, he added.
Rajesh denied holding her hand and instead claimed she had been helping him to get up[/caption]
“There has to be more than one person involved. I have no doubt.”
It comes as Bhagat appeared in court on Monday charged with a separate spate of thefts on tourists. He will face rape and murder charges later.
The last known pictures of the much-loved jetsetter show her in a bikini top and holding the hand of Rajesh Sarokomart Pant – a local taxi driver known as ‘Kanar’.
The 37-year-old reportedly spent hours drinking with the Brit, who lived and worked in Liverpool before going travelling, but denies he was holding her hand.
He is one of six men brought in for questioning by police investigating her murder and has since been released on bail.
He said he had been drinking with the traveller in Green Park bar on the night of her death and the photograph had been taken at about 9.20pm.
Rajesh claims shortly after that he went home and Danielle got on the back of a scooter belonging to suspect Bhagat, who remains in custody.
His wife Rishma, 31, said he had not been with Danielle that night.
The latest claims come as Danielle's friends revealed she was surrounded by a group of "leering" Indian men at a party hours before she met her tragic end.
Other partygoers told how a group of locals were “glued” to Danielle, who had painted her face, at the bash for local ex-pats.
The intervention of Mr Varma, who also worked on the case of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling's 2008 murder, is not the first time cops investigating Danielle's murder faced criticism.
On Friday it emerged up to 30 people trampled through the crime scene.
Pals of the Irish-British national, originally from Buncrana, Donegal, fear the investigation could be compromised by police mishandling.
Her friend Saskia Gall claimed: "We went out to the field and there were about 30 or more men standing next to the body taking photos and watching."
Police have denied mishandling the case.
Deputy Superintendent Sammy Tavares said: "There is no question of polluting the crime scene. We always sanitise the area of crime. We call the crime scene experts and forensics.
"But in this case it might have taken a couple of hours for the team to turn up.
"The accused was identified by some witnesses, but it was done with due diligence."
Cops revealed Danielle was strangled to death after she was raped.
Her body was discovered naked in a field near a beach after her face was mutilated with a broken beer bottle.
A post-mortem revealed evidence of sexual assault and “compression of the neck”, local media said.
Umesh Gaonkar, of Goa Police, said the examination showed that Danielle suffered cerebral damage as well as constriction of the neck, causing her death.
Her heartbroken pals have now set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of repatriating her body, according to the Irish Mirror.
The page has already raised more than £32,000 for her family.
Bhagat, who appeared in court on 20 separate theft charges, admitted to police that he killed Danielle but denied raping her, according to police.
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