First room entry was after alarm raised, cleaner insists
DEFENDANT/SANDIP MONEEA:SANDIP MONEEA (42) grew up in Rose-Bell, a village in southeastern Mauritius. After finishing school at 16, he worked in a factory before moving to England in 1999.
Moneea flew to London on a six-month tourist visa, but stayed there illegally for five years. Living with his uncle in Finsbury Park, he worked first as a painter and decorator with a Mauritian contractor before finding a job as an evening housekeeper at Thistle Hotel in Lancaster Gate.
When police searched his home after his arrest last year they found a fake French ID card with his photograph on it. Moneea said a Mauritian contact named Abdul gave him the ID card unsolicited, but he insisted he never used it.
“How come you got a job with a Mauritian passport when you didn’t have the right to work in England,” prosecuting barrister Mehdi Manrakhan asked.
“They interviewed me,” he replied. “They told me to leave my passport with them. The [employment] agency did it all.”
When he returned to Mauritius in 2004, Moneea first moved back to the family home in Rose-Bell before going to live with his older sister, Mala Gajadhur, in the town of Goodlands. He started working at Legends Hotel shortly after returning to the island, joining as a room attendant before being promoted to supervisor.
From the witness box, Moneea showed the court seven letters of appreciation he received from the director at Legends for his work at the hotel over six years. Vivekanana Jeerasoo, the housekeeping manager, described Moneea as a “very straight” worker.
There were a number of complaints over the cleanliness of rooms under his supervision, but not his behaviour. In 2006, Moneea began building a house in the town of Petit Raffray. He married Reka, a government worker, just 37 days before his arrest in connection with the McAreavey killing in January last year.
Members of Moneea’s family, including his two sisters and his elderly mother, attended the trial every day.
A well-built man with greying hair and a slight stammer, Moneea gave evidence in his own defence in the closing stages of the trial. He insisted he had no involvement in the killing, and said the first time he set foot inside room 1025 on January 10th was when he came on the scene with other staff members after the alarm had been raised.
Dispute arose over a brief phone call Moneea made to his sister Mala at 2.45pm on January 10th – the time at which the prosecution said Ms McAreavey was killed. Moneea described the call as “nothing special”, saying he had inquired after his sister’s family and turned down an invitation to dinner that evening.
The prosecution suggested he made the call from inside room 1025 just after committing the crime, not from a corridor near room 1010, as he claimed.