Hotel managers played 'a dirty game', says Mauritian officer

Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 01:00

A SENIOR Mauritian police officer has accused managers at the hotel where Michaela McAreavey was killed of “playing a dirty game” by withholding information from detectives.

Yoosoof Soopun, an assistant commissioner of the Mauritian police, said management at Legends Hotel in Grand Gaube was more concerned with protecting its reputation than finding the killer. Giving evidence at the trial of two former hotel cleaners accused of murdering Ms McAreavey in January last year, Mr Soopun said senior hotel staff initially did not provide officers with readings from the electronic door system for room 1025, where Mr and Ms McAreavey were staying.

When police obtained those readings following “persistent requests”, they showed that a particular keycard was used to enter the room at 2.42pm – about two minutes before Ms McAreavey entered. This helped police to eliminate the victim’s husband, John, as a suspect, the officer said.

“I just want to state that hotel management, particularly the chief security officer Mr Imrit, has played a dirty game with the police,” said Mr Soopun, who is also head of the Major Crime Investigation Team that led the McAreavey inquiry.

“Had we had that information earlier, there is no doubt the poor Mr John McAreavey would not have been taken to Piton police station and treated as a suspect by Piton CID.”

The court heard last week Mr McAreavey was taken to Piton police station, where he was handcuffed and left alone for five hours on the day of his wife’s death.

“The hotel management from the very beginning were much concerned to protect the reputation of the hotel rather than to discover who has killed [the] deceased,” said Mr Soopun. “This is why several important things have not been disclosed to the police.”

Ms McAreavey, the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, was killed while on honeymoon with her husband, John. The prosecution says she was murdered by two hotel cleaners, Avinash Treebhoowoon (31) and Sandip Moneea (42), after she returned to her room to collect biscuits and found them stealing. Both men deny the charges.

On the 16th day of the trial, Mr Soopun was asked by Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, for Mr Treebhoowoon, why police had not checked a black purse found in the hotel room for fingerprints.

The officer said that, given that Mr McAreavey told them nothing had been stolen from the purse, they had initially concluded it was “not an issue”.

It was only on January 13th – three days after the killing – that Mr Treebhoowoon made his confession and mentioned the black purse. “By that time, it was too late,” Mr Soopun said. “John McAreavey was already at the airport with the coffin of his wife to leave for Ireland.”

Mr Soopun was also asked about Dassen Naraynen, a security officer at Legends Hotel, who asked to be posted to the vicinity of room 1025 on the day of the killing and faces larceny charges in relation to the same incident.

However, Mr Soopun said Mr Naraynen was “completely excluded as being one of the murderers” but had conspired with Mr Moneea to steal.

As the most senior officer of the team, Mr Soopun was pressed about claims by Mr Treebhoowoon that he was beaten and tortured while in custody. He described those claims as “false and unfounded”.

Mr Teeluckdharry said the officer called his client by expletives, showed him a gun and said: “If you don’t speak you’ll die today.” The officer said, “I never use that kind of language; this would be confirmed by my men and my family . . . We never carry any revolver in MCIT, except when we go out.”