Accused alleges police tortured him to get confession

A hotel worker who confessed to murdering Michaela McAreavey had his head held under water and was almost suffocated with a towel during interrogation, a court heard.

Avinash Treebhoowon insists his admission of guilt was extracted with police brutality.

The court in Mauritius heard claims that officers also failed to put anti-contamination clothes on him when he was taken to the crime scene at the holiday island’s luxury Legends Hotel for a reconstruction three days after the murder.

Police officers who attended the exercise in room 1025 of the Legends Hotel were also not in protective clothing, a police photographer told jurors.

In another twist, it was later revealed to the jury that a witness who claims he saw Treebhoowon and his co-accused Sandip Mooneea leave the room where the honeymooner was strangled was himself charged in connection with the crime.

Fellow employee at Legends, Raj Theekoy, and two other men, were accused with conspiracy to murder the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, but all three had the charges against them dropped.

Mrs McAreavey was found dead in her hotel room shortly after lunching with her husband John by the pool.

The prosecution claim she returned to her room to fetch biscuits for her tea and caught the accused stealing in her room.

The evidence about the alleged police violence and the additional charges were contained in official documents relating to preliminary court proceedings about the murder, which were presented to the trial by Dewanarayan Ramdawa, a clerk at one of the island’s district courts.

Treebhoowon’s lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, read into the record a complaint made by the room attendant to the court authorities in the days after the crime in January last year.

Repeating his client’s words, the defence counsel outlined what allegedly took place the day after the murder.

“I was brought to Piton police station and I was dealt two slaps at my face, at my left cheek and ear,” he said.

“I was brought to MCIT [the police’s Major Crime Investigation Team] in Port Louis. There I was undressed and placed in a lying position, I was held by the police and assaulted at the heels and then I was dealt five slaps to my left ear and I can’t hear well on one side.

“I was made to suffocate on a towel and I was assaulted again on a table. In the police van I was dealt furthermore (beatings) in the police van.”

Mr Teeluckdharry then read what his client alleged took place over the next two days.

“While I was leaving court I went to Port Louis and officers asked me to sit down,” he said.

“It was about 7pm. I was placed on the table. I was undressed and a pale of water was filled. I was on a chair, I was gripped by the neck and placed into that pale of water.

“On the following day two officers took me in a van and I was beaten up in the van.”

Treebhoowon claimed each time he was brought to a doctor for a check up.

Mr Ramdawa, the clerk, confirmed to the court the statements were contained in the court files from the preliminary inquiry.

He also detailed the initial charges brought against Mr Theekoy and the other two men.

The court has already heard Theekoy, who will give evidence, claims he heard a woman cry out in pain from the McAreaveys’ room — 1025 — and saw the two accused exit.

He alleges that Mooneea threatened him to keep his mouth shut.

Ms McAreavey’s brother Mark Harte and sister-in- law Claire McAreavey were in court as the claims of police brutality were levelled.

Her widower John was not in attendance as he is due to be called as a prosecution witness later in the trial.

Treebhoowon stared intently at his lawyer as he read out his complaint.

Mooneea, sitting in the dock beside him, showed no emotion.

Both deny murdering the 27-year-old teacher.

Harris Jeewooth, a crime scene photographer, was asked by defence counsel Rama Valayden, representing Mooneea, to confirm whether anti-contamination measures were taken.

Mr Valayden said: “All witnesses and police officers who were called during your presence during the reconstruction — did they wear any protective clothes to prevent contamination?”

The officer replied: “No, my lord.”

The case against Treebhoowon, from Plaine des Roches, and hotel floor supervisor Mooneea, from Petit Raffray, was scheduled to last two weeks but is set to go on for much longer.

Judge Prithviraj Fecknah said yesterday that a “lengthy trial” was ahead.

It is already one of the most high-profile criminal cases held on the island.

The jury consists of six men and three women and almost 50 witnesses are listed to give evidence.

Though most Mauritians speak French Creole as their first language, court proceedings are being heard in English.


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