Purse found in room was not checked for prints, court told

Sat, Jun 9, 2012, 01:00

A PURSE found in the hotel room where Michaela McAreavey was killed last year was not checked for fingerprints by police, a court in Mauritius has heard.

In a confession signed days after the killing in January last year, hotel worker Avinash Treebhoowoon said he and his colleague Sandip Moneea killed Ms McAreavey after she caught him stealing from a purse in her room.

The 27-year-old teacher was killed at Legends Hotel in Grand Gaube while on honeymoon with her husband John. Mr Treebhoowoon later retracted his confession, and both he and Mr Moneea have pleaded not guilty to murder.

In court yesterday, Mohammad Dhonye, a scene-of-crime investigator, said a black purse found in the room was not among the items police checked for fingerprints.

Asked whether all the furniture in the room was dusted for prints, Mr Dhonye said: “Normally we dust places where an intruder would be likely to touch.”

Under cross-examination from Rama Valayden, representing Mr Moneea, Mr Dhonye said sliding doors leading from the room to a terrace were locked.

He agreed with Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, for Mr Treebhoowoon, that a laptop computer and two mobile phones were found in the room, but said he was not aware whether they had been examined by police.

On the 14th day of the trial, the court was told John McAreavey will not be returning to the witness box to amend evidence he gave earlier this week.

The prosecution had been considering whether to formally apply for Mr McAreavey to be recalled after he indicated he had made an error on the stand on Wednesday.

Mr McAreavey had said that on January 9th last year, the day before his wife was killed, he went to their room to get biscuits for her. He was challenged by Mr Valayden, who said room keycard readings for the room did not tally with this. On Thursday, Mr McAreavey’s lawyer Dick Ng Sui Wa said his client had made a mistake and given the wrong date. The incident had actually occurred on January 8th, he said.

The defence said they would object to any attempt to have Mr McAreavey amend his evidence, however, and in view of this, chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan told the court yesterday he would not be seeking to recall him.

The court also heard from Ravindradro Seetohul, a room attendant at Legends Hotel, who said he saw Mr Treebhoowoon cleaning the McAreaveys’ room shortly before the time police believe the killing occurred.

Mr Seetohul said he also saw Mr Treebhoowoon in conversation with a security guard, Dassen Naraynen, at the same room at around the same time.

Earlier this week the trial heard Mr Naraynen had been posted to the hotel’s front gate that morning but had asked to change his position to one closer to the deluxe block where the McAreaveys were staying. Mr Naraynen faces a provisional charge of conspiracy to commit larceny in the McAreavey case. He denies any involvement.

Earlier, Mr Teeluckdharry suggested police had misinterpreted an apparent admission of guilt made by his client to his father.

The court was told of a police log that recorded Mr Treebhoowoon bursting into tears as he told his father after the killing to “forget” him because he had “made a mistake”. The alleged remarks were made when Mr Treebhoowoon received a visit from his father while in police custody on January 13th – three days after Ms McAreavey was strangled.

In court yesterday, Mr Teeluckdharry said the meeting between father and son was the first since they had a row that resulted in his client leaving his parents’ home a month earlier. The barrister said this was the “mistake” referred to by his client, and that he was asking his father’s forgiveness.