Policeman denies torturing suspect

A policeman has denied claims that he grabbed one of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey and held his head under water during interrogation.

Constable Jean Robert Manoovaloo was also accused of pulling a towel over Avinash Treebhoowon’s face and subjecting him to numerous beatings.

At the Supreme Court in Port Louis in Mauritius, the officer rejected the claims as “false and malicious”.

Room cleaner Mr Treebhoowon signed a confession statement admitting the murder of the Co Tyrone teacher three days after she was found dead in the Legends Hotel in Jan 2011.

But he now claims the admission was not genuine and was extracted by police brutality.

His lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, yesterday challenged Mr Manoovaloo with the suggestion that he was one of his client’s main torturers.

He said the day after the murder, Mr Manoovaloo was transporting Mr Treebhoowon between police stations when they stopped near a church yard. “Then you assaulted him,” said the lawyer.

The policeman replied: “This is a completely false and malicious allegation from the accused, my lord.”

Mr Teeluckdharry continued: “You and other officers were involved with torturing accused number one [Mr Treebhoowon], you placed a towel over his head and were hitting him.”

Again the officer dismissed the allegation: “This is absolutely false, my lord.”

The barrister told the court that the next day more brutality was meted out.

“On 12 January 2011 you and other officers of the MCIT [Major Crime Investigation Team] were involved in torturing accused number one again,” he said.

“Amongst officers who lay him naked on a table, you were the one who plunged his head in a pail of water officer. Accused number one was struggling to breathe.”

Mr Manoovaloo replied: “This is a false and malicious allegation from accused number one, my lord.”

The officer also denied threatening the defendant and his then-lawyer Ravi Rutnah when he signed the confession statement on Jan 13. “This is false, my lord. After the recording of the statement, counsel [Mr Rutnah] went away, he was happy,” he said

Two days earlier, Mr Treebhoowon had made a statement to police denying involvement.

That was read to court in the accused’s native Creole.

In it, he claimed he had cleaned room 1025 where Mrs McAreavey was found strangled and left before the murder, returning to a pantry where supplies were kept.

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