Claim arguing couple were McAreaveys dropped
LAWYERS FOR the two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey have pulled back from their claim that a couple seen apparently arguing on the day of the killing were Ms McAreavey and her husband John.
The court was last week shown CCTV footage from Legends Hotel which captured a man and woman at the reception desk just after 3pm on January 10th last year – about 15 minutes after the prosecution says Ms McAreavey was killed in her room.
Barristers for the two defendants, Avinash Treebhoowoon (31) and Sandip Moneea (42), originally claimed the couple were the McAreaveys, but police said they had identified the pair as German tourists.
In court yesterday, Rama Valayden, for Mr Moneea, said that in light of “additional information” it had received, the defence would not be pursuing the matter.
The lawyers stopped short of making a definitive statement on who was in the CCTV footage but said they would not be “pressing” the matter.
Judge Prithviraj Fecknah said the court understood what “not pressing” on an issue meant and told the nine jurors the identity of the couple was therefore not an issue.
“As far as you are concerned as members of the jury, you need not delve any further into this aspect of the evidence,” he said.
Last week, Yoosoof Soopun, the assistant police commissioner, told the court that the couple captured in the grainy security camera image on the day Ms McAreavey died were German holidaymakers Harald Hoyer and Savarese Graziella.
“I am 100 per cent sure that the couple found at the reception at 15.02 is not the McAreavey couple and I am able to confirm it,” Mr Soopun said.
Ms McAreavey was strangled in her hotel room while on honeymoon in Mauritius. The prosecution claims she was murdered by Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea after she returned to her room to collect biscuits and found them stealing.
Both men deny the charges.
Under cross-examination yesterday, Mr Soopun – the most senior officer in the serious crime unit that led the McAreavey inquiry – rejected as “totally unfounded” the contention of Mr Valayden that the investigation had “not been carried out thoroughly”.
The policeman was asked about four fingerprints recovered from the crime scene that did not belong to the McAreaveys or the two accused men.
He said a number of people had been in the room when Ms McAreavey’s body was first discovered, including other hotel guests.
Mr Valayden asked why they had not been fingerprinted to eliminate them from inquiries. “Some of the people who had access in the room had already left the country, my lord,” he explained.
Mr Valayden pressed the witness on a German resident – named Schaer – and the recurring claims made during the trial that the guest had wanted to make a statement to police but was not spoken to.
Mr Soopun said this was not true and an assertion from the hotel’s head of security, Mohammad Imrit, that staff informed police of this fact was also incorrect.
He claimed Mr Imrit’s assertion was a further indication of the police’s view that they “did not obtain the full co-operation of the hotel”.
The prosecution is expected to formally close its case today, after jury members visit the hotel where the killing occurred.
The six men and three woman of the jury will be accompanied by Judge Fecknah and both legal teams on the half-day exercise at Legends Hotel – renamed the Lux since the killing – in Grand Gaube, in the north of the island.
They will be shown room 1025, where the Co Tyrone teacher was found strangled. They will also be taken to the nearby poolside restaurant where she had lunch with her husband John before her death.
The jury will be shown 10 other rooms that have been mentioned during the last four weeks of the trial and other significant spots and landmarks referred to in court.