Hotel staff to be called to identify CCTV pair
STAFF FROM the hotel where Michaela McAreavey was killed will be called to give evidence in court next week in an attempt to identify a couple seen in CCTV footage recorded on the day of the Irish woman’s death.
Lawyers for the defendants at the trial in Mauritius of two hotel cleaners accused of killing Ms McAreavey (27) in January last year claimed the couple in the video were the Co Tyrone woman and her husband John.
However, a senior police officer told the court he was “100 per cent sure” they were not the Irish couple.
Assistant commissioner of police Yoosoof Soopun said the couple captured in a grainy security camera image at the reception of Legends Hotel on the day Ms McAreavey died were German holidaymakers Harald Hoyer and Savarese Graziella.
The footage was filmed just after 3pm on January 10th last year – about 15 minutes after the prosecution claims Ms McAreavey was killed.
The prosecution says she was strangled by two hotel employees, 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.
Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah said further examination of the issue was required before the identity of the couple could be confirmed.
“It hasn’t been proved and established beyond reasonable doubt that this is the German couple,” the judge added.
After a request by defence barrister Rama Valayden, other CCTV footage taken from the hotel will be played in the court on Monday in an effort to resolve the issue.
After the images of the couple at reception were played, Mr Soopun told the nine jurors he was fully satisfied it was not the McAreaveys.
“I am 100 per cent sure that the couple found at the reception at 15.02 is not the McAreavey couple and I am able to confirm it,” he said.
He then produced documentation to the court relating to the German couple, including passport copies.
The assistant commissioner, who heads the serious crime unit that led the McAreavey inquiry, said staff working at reception believe it was the Germans in the pictures.
The court was also shown another clip from the reception area.
Taken about 10 minutes after the unidentified couple left, it shows a man walking up to the desk. Mr Soopun said he was “definitely” Mr McAreavey.
This apparently is the moment the newlywed asked for a room key to access his room. He has already told the trial he last saw his wife at a poolside restaurant in the hotel at about 2.40pm, when she went back to her room to fetch biscuits.
The timer on the CCTV was at 3.15pm when the bare-chested man strode up to reception alone. Moments later he walked away, his request apparently having been dealt with.
A bellboy has told police he accompanied Mr McAreavey back through the hotel and opened the door of room 1025, where his wife was lying dead in a bath full of water.
The man in the earlier image at reception was also bare-chested but appeared to be wearing different shorts from those seen on the man filmed some 10 minutes later. The footwear also appears to be different.
The woman who appeared in the initial CCTV footage had dark hair tied up and was wearing a white- and dark-coloured bikini.
Ms McAreavey was found in a bikini but was also wearing a brown skirt.
Mr Valayden asked Mr Soopun whether he had attempted to get a statement from the German couple at the time.
“No, because I was satisfied there was obviously differences between the McAreavey couple and this German couple,” he replied.
Mr Valayden went on: “You watched this footage several times. You must have had some doubt in your mind?”
“No not at all,” the officer replied.