Police accused of 'dicing with reputation of Mauritius'


POLICE INVESTIGATING the murder of Michaela McAreavey risked the reputation of Mauritius by accusing an innocent man of committing the crime, his trial has been told by a defence lawyer for one of the accused.

Rama Valayden, representing former hotel employee Sandip Moneea, said police were “putting the state of Mauritius in a dangerous position” by putting his client on trial despite it being a “physical impossibility” that he murdered the Irish woman.

“They are dicing with the reputation of this country, with the reputation of police in this country. They are dicing with justice,” he said.

Ms McAreavey, a 27-year-old teacher from Co Tyrone, was killed while on honeymoon with her husband John in January last year. The prosecution claims she was murdered by Mr Moneea and his colleague Avinash Treebhoowoon after she returned to her room to collect biscuits and found them stealing.

Both men deny the charges.

Describing the McAreavey criminal inquiry as the most important in Mauritius since the island gained independence in 1968, Mr Valayden said police had failed to carry out basic detective work at Legends Hotel. In such a self-contained, closely monitored setting, it should not have been difficult to identify the killer.

Mr Valayden, opening his case with an address to the jury, said no scientific evidence linked the accused men to the deceased or the crime scene. Despite this, police remained “satisfied” that they had identified the right men.

“The door is open. Send them for 60 years. The case is over, even though the right person has not been found,” he said.

Outlining the case he would present to the jury this week, Mr Valayden said he would produce evidence showing that Mr Moneea made a phone call to his sister at 2.45pm on January 10th last year – the time at which the prosecution says the killing took place. “Killing at one time and phoning at the same time,” the lawyer asked. “No one can do that.”

Mr Valayden urged jurors to be “really, really cautious” with the evidence of Raj Theekoy, a former hotel cleaner who has implicated the two defendants in the crime. Mr Theekoy was originally charged in connection with the killing but those charges were dropped and he was granted immunity from prosecution to testify in court. The barrister claimed he had found 75 contradictions in Mr Theekoy’s evidence and told the jurors to ask themselves why he had been granted immunity. “What does he have to hide,” he asked.

Earlier, the court heard evidence from Sooriedeo Treebhoowoon, the father of the second accused man, who was questioned about a visit to his son at a police station just days after his arrest.

The father said that during that meeting, his son told him he had been beaten by police. Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan challenged the 52-year-old labourer that he made up the claim. “I tell you that at no time did your son’s lawyer or your son mention this phrase,” Mr Manrakhan said.

The witness denied that he had lied to protect his son.

Mr Treebhoowoon signed a confession statement on January 13th last year, but later retracted the statement and said he had been beaten and tortured by police before signing it.

In court yesterday, Dr Miriam Nabeebux of SSR hospital produced a casualty card which showed Mr Treebhoowoon presented on January 12th alleging he had been assaulted on the face, chest, foot and heel.

Although she did not personally examine the patient, Dr Nabeebux said she believed his shirt would have been removed for an abdomen examination mentioned on the casualty card. Mr Treebhoowoon previously told the court he did not remove his shirt.

Mr Treebhoowoon also told the court that he suffered pain in his ear as a result of beatings he received from police officers. On the stand yesterday, a second doctor, Manu Chiniah, told the court he examined Mr Treebhoowoon’s ear on January 17th last year. Dr Chiniah concluded that Mr Treebhoowoon had an ear infection. “I personally asked whether he sustained any injury and the answer was no,” he said.

The 28th day of the trial began with Judge Prithviraj Fecknah telling jurors that due to a “technical” legal issue they must ignore questions he had put to Mr Treebhoowoon last week while he was being cross-examined.