Arresting policeman forgetful in witness box

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.

It came shortly before the revelation that swabs taken from the hotel room where the honeymooner was strangled and sent to the UK for analysis did not contain genetic material belonging to hotel employees Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea.

The crime scene samples were handed to Cellmark Forensic Services lab in England for testing.

Cellmark expert Susan Woodroffe was also asked to examine whether the DNA of two other original suspects in the case, fellow Legends employees Raj Theekoy and Dassen Naraynen, was present on the samples.

Giving evidence to the criminal court in the Mauritian capital Port Louis yesterday, she noted that unidentified genetic traces other than Ms McAreavey’s or her husband John’s were found on the samples.

However, in relation to samples taken from Ms McAreavey’s neck, feet, and fingernails, she told the court: “There is no specific indication that any of Raj Theekoy, Sandip Moneea, Avinash Treebhoowoon, or Dassen Naraynen have contributed to the results obtained.”

Genetic material not belonging to Ms McAreavey or her widower was found on a sample taken from her head. Ms Woodroffe said that if it was from a sole contributor then all four men could be ruled out.

The forensics specialist told the court that DNA samples left on the victim’s body could have washed off when she was placed in the bath water.

While Ms Woodroffe found no matches from the four men on swabs taken from the victim’s body, she did identify a potential match with Mr Naraynen on a key card for the room.

“The majority contributor to this [DNA] profile matches that of Dassen Naraynen, as such it could have originated from him.”

The expert said a possible DNA match for Mr Naraynen was also identified on a cupboard in the room but she stressed that could be a chance observation in results and not actually proof that he touched it.

Mr Naraynen, who the trial has already heard had a conspiracy-to-murder charge against him dropped, is facing a larceny (theft) charge in connection with the case in separate court proceedings.

Mr Theekoy, whose charge of conspiracy to murder was also dropped, is set to give evidence against Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea in the trial, after claiming he saw them both exit the McAreaveys’ room moments after he heard a female screaming out in pain inside. Mr Treebhoowoon, aged 30, and Mr Moneea, aged 42, deny the premeditated murder of the Irish teacher.

Mr Treebhoowoon confessed to strangling the Co Tyrone honeymooner in the wake of her murder in Jan 2011, but has since insisted the admission was beaten out of him by police.

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

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

Mr Seevathian was asked to explain what happened during a two-and-a-half-hour period, between police taking custody of Mr Treebhoowoon at Legends Hotel where Ms 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.

However, he repeatedly answered “I can’t remember” to a series of other questions posed by the lawyer about his involvement with Mr Treebhoowoon 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,” Justice Fecknah told him. “So make an effort to remember.”

The officer drew another blank when asked about subsequent occasions escorting Mr Treebhoowoon that day, Jan 11, and the following day, and about which officers were with him and at what times.

He was with Mr Treebhoowoon when he was taken to court in the town of Mapou on Jan 12 and made his official complaint to the authorities about his treatment. However, Mr Seevathian said he could not recall details of that court appearance.

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

Ms McAreavey’s father-in-law Brendan McAreavey and her sister-in-law Claire McAreavey watched the exchanges from the public gallery.

Her widower John has returned to the island but cannot attend proceedings until he gives evidence as a prosecution witness.

Ms McAreavey, from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was the only daughter of Mickey Harte, the GAA manager who has steered his native county to three All-Ireland championships.

The Legends Hotel, since renamed the Lux Hotel, is in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, close to Mauritius’s Grand Bay.

One of the main entrances to the Supreme Court building in Port Louis was blocked off ahead of the start of proceedings yesterday after part of a tree fell down in high winds.


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