Judge warns 'forgetful' officer in McAreavey murder trial

Judge warns 'forgetful' officer in McAreavey murder trial
MicHAELA McAreavey with father Mickey Harte.

A policeman who arrested one of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey has been warned by the judge after failing to answer a question on how the suspect was dealt with.

Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, confessed to strangling the Co Tyrone honeymooner in the wake of the murder last January but has since insisted the admission was beaten out of him by Mauritian police.

He has made an official complaint that his head was held under water and he was almost suffocated with a towel during interrogation.

Constable Hans Rouwin Seevathian of the police’s major crime investigation team was less than forthcoming when questioned by a defence barrister about what he and his team did with his client Treebhoowoon the day after the January 10 murder.

He was asked to explain what happened during a two-and-a-half hour period, between them arriving and taking custody of Treebhoowoon at Legends Hotel where Mrs McAreavey was killed and the suspect making a statement in a local police station.

The court fell silent as the officer did not offer an answer.

Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah then stepped in.

“Let the record show that the witness remains silent to this question,” he said.

When further pressed, the officer told defence counsel Sanjeev Teeluckdharry that he was questioning the accused about his movements.

But he repeatedly answered “I can’t remember” to a series of other questions posed by the lawyer about his involvement with the defendant in the days after the murder.

The judge warned him about his answers several times.

“You will tell us what happened because those events are very important for his trial. So make an effort to remember,” Justice Fecknah told him at one point.

But the officer drew another memory blank when asked about subsequent occasions escorting Treebhoowoon that day, January 11, and the following day and about what officers were with him and at what times.

He was with Treebhoowoon when he was taken to court in the town of Mapou on January 12 and made his official complaint about his treatment to the authorities.

But constable Seevathian said he could not recall details of the court appearance.

“It was a complaint against police but I can’t remember exactly the wording,” he said.

"Officer I would be very grateful if you don’t beat around the bush,” Judge Fecknah urged him sternly after the first in a series of recall failures.

In describing the police escorting Treebhoowoon to and from interview suites, jail cells and court rooms in those crucial days, Avinash Treebhoowoon’s lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry chose the word “manhandled”.

On at least two occasions he asked: “Which officers manhandled accused number 1?”

The prosecution said nothing until Justice Fecknah stepped in once again.

This term should be avoided, he said firmly.

“We all know English and we all know what manhandling is,” he cautioned the lawyer.

Mr Teeluckdharry adopted “handled” as his alternative.

The lawyer brought his cross-examination to a conclusion for the day with a series of questions about Treebhoowoon’s first court appearance in Mapou, two days after the murder.

At the court, the accused made a series of serious allegations against officers, claiming brutality.

Constable Seevathian was with him when he levelled those complaints in court.

Sixteen months on, the officer insisted he could not recall such details.

“It was a complaint against police but I can’t remember exactly the wording,” he answered Mr Teeluckdharry.

The lawyer continued, asking instead what the nature of the complaint was.

“As far as I know it was a complaint against police,” he replied.

The lawyer responded: “For what?”

Again the officer drew a blank.

“I don’t remember exactly my lord.”

The officer is set to return to the witness box tomorrow.

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