Defendants are police scapegoats,trial hears


TWO MAURITIAN men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey were innocent victims of a “wild hunt for scapegoats” by over-zealous police, a defence barrister has said.

In his closing speech to the jury yesterday, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry claimed “catastrophic failures” in the police investigation into the Irishwoman’s death last year meant the real killer was still at large.

“We are here because, instead of carrying out a serious inquiry, the [police] officers were in a rush, a wild hunt for scapegoats,” he said, calling for the inquiry to be reopened. “The image of our country cannot be mended by condemning two innocent men to hell for 60 years while the real culprit is still at large.”

Mr Teeluckdharry represents Avinash Treebhoowoon, a 32-year-old former room attendant who, along with his former supervisor Sandip Moneea (43), is on trial for Ms McAreavey’s murder.

The prosecution claims the 27-year-old teacher from Co Tyrone, who was on honeymoon at Legends Hotel with her husband John, was strangled by the accused men when she returned to her room to collect biscuits and caught them stealing. Both men deny the charges.

Listing shortcomings in the inquiry, Mr Teeluckdharry said officers failed to take statements from guests in the block where the McAreaveys were staying, and did not monitor comings and goings at the hotel on January 10th last year, the day of the killing.

He said the integrity of the crime scene was undermined by policemen entering without protective gear, and he accused members of the major crime squad that led the inquiry of beating and torturing his client. “This inquiry, if inquiry it has been, was a sham.”

Mr Treebhoowoon signed a confession three days after the killing, but later claimed the statement had been dictated by police and that he was coerced into signing it. “The alleged confession was fabricated by over-zealous [police] officers, piece by piece, line by line,” Mr Teeluckdharry said.

There was “not an iota” of DNA or fingerprint evidence against either of the accused men, while an eyewitness who implicated them could not be believed.

The eyewitness, Raj Theekoy, was originally charged with conspiracy to murder but the charges were dropped after he gave a statement saying he saw the two accused men walk away from the McAreaveys’ room shortly after hearing a woman screaming three times from inside.

The immunity given to Mr Theekoy to testify meant he was “currying favour with the police”, the barrister said.

Rama Valayden, representing Mr Moneea, prefaced his own closing speech by remarking on his affection for Ireland. “I love that nation for the struggle against British colonialism. All those who know me also know I am a strong supporter of Sinn Féin,” he said.

He referred to Ms McAreavey’s killing as “one of the most heinous crimes since [Mauritian] independence. But this case must be tried on the hard facts, not emotion.” Mr Valayden focused on the “amateurism” of the police inquiry, and said it was a physical impossibility that his client committed the crime.

The police had failed to carry out basic investigative work, including any attempt to find a match for a fingerprint found on the lens of Ms McAreavey’s sunglasses. “The only person who could have left his print on the lens is an assailant, if not the murderer himself,” said the barrister.

He said the DNA of a hotel security guard, Dassen Naraynen, was found inside the room, but charges against him were dropped and he did not give evidence.

“It’s laughable,” Mr Valayden said of the police inquiry. “But can we laugh at the expense of John McAreavey? Can we laugh at the expense of these two men?

“Don’t cause another injury to Michaela, wherever she is,” he told the jury. “If you do, all the angels in paradise will be wearing a black armband.”

Proceedings were adjourned until Thursday, when the jury is expected to receive legal instructions from the judge before retiring to consider its verdict.