POLICE are investigating the "suspicious" death of a Southampton backpacker whose body was discovered in one of the world's holiest cities.

Kevin John McMahon, 52, was found dead at the Kasha Guesthouse in the northern Indian city of Varanasi, a popular tourist destination on the banks of the River Ganges.

Mr McMahon is thought to have arrived in the country with his American girlfriend, named locally as Catherine Gallagher, 47, on July 18.

They had travelled around the country before arriving in Varanasi on September 18.

Mr McMahon was plagued by serious stomach pains on the night before he died and is thought to have been taking medication to treat a liver complaint.

The local police chief, Senior Superintendent Anand Kulkarni, confirmed that the backpacker's death was being treated as suspicious, adding that the matter had been referred to British High Commission in New Delhi.

Mr McMahon was taken ill on Sunday evening.

Staff at the guesthouse say they advised him to go to hospital but claim he chose to remain in his room. The following morning he was found dead, with the door to the room wide open.

It comes two years after a 32-year-old British tourist was found dead in the toilet of a guesthouse in the Shivala area if Varanasi.

A post-mortem examination of Mr McMahon's body is due to be carried out once his best of kin arrive in the country.

Sanjay Pal, a police inspector with the local intelligence unit, said: "We were informed about the death of the British tourist in the morning.

"When we reached the guesthouse, we found his body on the bed.

"We have started the investigation and informed the British High Commission in New Delhi but are yet to get consent from his family to carry out the autopsy."

Mr McMahon and his girlfriend had recently arrived in the city from the mountainous state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "We are supporting the family of a British man who died in India and are in contact with local authorities.”

The spokesman refused to release any more details about the backpacker or the circumstances surrounding his death.

Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

It is situated on the left bank of the Ganges and is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism.