'No DNA on McAreavey accused'

Mon, May 28, 2012, 01:00

There was no DNA from the two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey found on her body or at the crime scene in Mauritius, a court has heard.

A forensic expert from England told the trial of the two hotel workers that their genetic material was not identified on a range of swabs taken from the tragic honeymooner or on samples recovered from the hotel room in the island's luxury Legends Hotel where she was found strangled in January 2011.

Susan Woodroffe from Cellmark Forensic Services was also asked to examine whether the DNA of defendants Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea and two other original suspects in the case - fellow Legends employees Raj Theekoy and Dassen Naraynen - was present on the samples.

While Ms Woodroffe found no matches from the four men on swabs taken from the victim’s body, she did identify a potential match with Mr Naraynen on a key card for the room.

The expert said a possible DNA match for Mr Naraynen was also identified on a cupboard in the room but she stressed that could be a chance observation in results and not actually proof that he touched it.

Mr Naraynen, who the trial has already heard had a conspiracy-to-murder charge against him dropped, is facing a larceny charge in connection with the case in separate court proceedings.

But in relation to samples taken from Mrs McAreavey’s neck, feet and fingernails, the forensic expert told the criminal court in Port Louis: “There is no specific indication that any of Raj Theekoy, Sandip Moneea, Avinash Treebhoowoon or Dassen Naraynen have contributed to the results obtained.”

Genetic material other than belonging to Mrs McAreavey and her husband John was found on a sample taken from her head, but the expert said if it was from a sole contributor then all four men could be ruled out.

Mr Theekoy, whose charge of conspiracy to murder was also dropped, is set to give evidence against Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea in the trial, after claiming he saw them both exit the McAreaveys’ room moments after he heard a female screaming out in pain inside.

Mr Treebhoowoon (30) and Mr Moneea (42) deny the premeditated murder of the teacher.

Mrs McAreavey was found dead in her hotel room shortly after lunching with her husband  by the pool. The prosecution claim she returned to her room to fetch biscuits for her tea and caught the accused stealing in her room.

Earlier, a policeman remained silent when asked what he did with one of the men accused of the murder the morning after the crime. Mr Treebhoowoon alleges that police beat a confession out of him.

Constable Seevathian of the major crime investigation team was questioned by a defence solicitor about what he and his team did with his client in a two-and-a-half hour period between them arriving at Legends Hotel and Mr Treebhoowoon making a statement in a local police station.

The court fell silent as the officer did not offer an answer.

After a few moments judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah intervened. “Let the record show that the witness remains silent to this question,” he said.

When further pressed, the officer told defence counsel Sanjeev Teeluckdharry that he was questioning the accused about his movements.

But he repeatedly answered “I can’t remember” to a series of other questions posed by the lawyer about his involvement with the accused in the days after the murder.

The judge warned him about his answers several times. “You will tell us what happened because those events are very important for his trial. So make an effort to remember,” Justice Fecknah said at one point.

Mrs McAreavey’s father-in-law Brendan McAreavey and her sister-in-law Claire McAreavey watched the exchanges from the public gallery. Her widower John has returned to the island but cannot be in court until he gives evidence as a prosecution witness.

One of the main entrances to the Supreme Court building in Port Louis was blocked off ahead of the start of proceedings after part of a tree fell down in high winds last night.

A jury of nine - six men and three women - is hearing the case. Almost 50 witnesses are listed to give evidence.

The case against Mr Treebhoowoon, from Plaine des Roches, and Moneea, from Petit Raffray, was scheduled to last two weeks but is set to go on for much longer with Judge Fecknah having warned that a “lengthy trial” was ahead.