McAreavey killed in violent struggle for two minutes

 

MICHAELA McAREAVEY was strangled during a violent struggle that lasted about two minutes, the Mauritius Criminal Court heard yesterday.

At the trial of two hotel workers accused of murdering the Irish woman, the doctor who carried out the postmortem said her neck injuries were compatible with pressure applied by the grip of a hand and the use of a forearm.

Dr Sunil Kumar Gungadin, chief medical officer of the Mauritian police, ruled out drowning and strangulation with the use of a ligature.

He performed postmortem on Ms McAreavey (27) about six hours after she was found dead in her room at Legends Hotel on January 10th last year. The doctor said the time of death was in a 30-minute window between 2.30pm and 3pm on January 10th.

The prosecution claims that Ms McAreavey was murdered by 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.

John McAreavey, his father Brendan, sister Claire and his brother-in-law Mark Harte were in court yesterday but, at the prompting of their barrister, who has a watching brief at the trial, they left just before the doctor took the stand.

Dr Gungadin said the cause of death was “asphyxia due to compression of the neck”.

“It was a violent asphyxia death where asphyxia was caused by manual strangulation and the pattern of injuries over the neck are compatible with pressure being applied by grip of a hand as well as use of the forearm,” he said.

Ms McAreavey sustained a number of injuries to her neck, including scrape marks which Dr Gungadin said may have been caused by her as she tried to break free. “The fact it was a violent struggle and pressure was being applied over the neck . . . anybody would have the natural reflex to push away to alleviate pressure over the neck,” he explained.

One of the bones in her neck was also broken – an injury that would have been caused by “a considerable amount of force” being applied, Dr Gungadin added.

A number of bruises to the head were due either to blunt forces being applied or to the head having come into contact with a hard surface. There were no open wounds on the body.

Asked by lead prosecution lawyer Mehdi Manrakhan whether Ms McAreavey could have been strangled with a ligature, such as a piece of cloth or a belt, the doctor said he was “100 per cent” sure a ligature was not used.

When Mr McAreavey gave evidence last week, he said his wife’s body was in the bath, which was partly filled with water, when he entered the room.

In the witness box yesterday, Dr Gungadin said Ms McAreavey did not die by drowning.

The court previously heard that a DNA test carried out on a swab taken from Ms McAreavey’s neck showed a partial female profile consistent with the victim’s DNA.

Asked yesterday whether he was surprised by this, Dr Gungadin said: “In my opinion, the body has come out of water and the chance of losing genetic material was very high. That is why I am not surprised to find only the genetic profile of the victim.”

Judge Prithviraj Fecknah asked him how long pressure was concentrated on the victim’s neck. “One to two minutes of pressure, my lord,” the doctor replied.

One of the defendants, Mr Treebhoowoon, initially gave police a confession but then retracted it and said it was beaten out of him.

Dr Gungadin examined Mr Treebhoowoon after the 72-hour period in which he alleges the abuse took place. Asked about it yesterday, the doctor said he found no injuries on Mr Treebhoowoon’s body and said the accused did not make any allegations of brutality when he saw him.

CCTV HOTEL FOOTAGE TO BE SHOWN AT TRIAL

CCTV FOOTAGE from the Mauritius hotel where Michaela McAreavey was killed is to be played today at the trial of two men accused of the Irish teacher’s murder.

Judge Prithviraj Fecknah said screens and a projector would be installed so the court could view footage from Legends Hotel covering a 35-minute window on the day of the killing and an hour the day before.

Rama Valayden, representing one of the defendants, Sandip Moneea, asked for footage from 2.55pm to 3.30pm on the day of the murder – January 10th last year – and 11am to noon the previous day. No other details about the CCTV footage were heard in court.

Assistant commissioner of police Yoosoof Soopun, who heads the serious crime unit that led the McAreavey inquiry, said he would bring the material to court for viewing today. - RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC