Accused’s brutality claims ‘inspired by movies’

A hotel worker who alleges he was beaten into confessing to the murder of honeymooner Michaela McAreavey has been challenged to explain why two doctors apparently found no sign of any injuries on him.

Avinash Treebhoowon was accused of making up claims of police brutality and taking inspiration for his story from movies as he was cross-examined by the prosecution in Mauritius’s Supreme Court.

The defendant and co-accused Sandip Mooneea deny murdering the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone football boss Mickey Harte at the Legends Hotel in Jan 2011.

Mr Treebhoowon, aged 32, returned to the witness box to give evidence for a third straight day; his second facing cross-examination from principal state counsel Mehdi Manrakhan.

He claims police forced him to sign a confession statement three days after the Jan 10 murder and that he had no knowledge of what it contained.

The prosecutor disputed this, insisting the document included correct facts the police could not have otherwise known and was littered with phrases favoured by Mr Treebhoowon.

The lawyer said the violent struggle with Mrs McAreavey outlined in the statement was consistent with the pattern of injuries sustained by the newlywed — yet he claimed police were not in possession of the autopsy report at that juncture.

Mr Treebhoowon has told the court he was subjected to various types of violence in the days after the murder. He alleged he was beaten around the head, punched in the stomach, grabbed in the crotch, whipped on the soles of his feet, and dunked in a bucket of water until he vomited blood.

Amid the claimed brutality, he made an official complaint to a magistrate at a court appearance and was duly sent to a hospital for examination.

Mr Manrakhan asked how could he explain that there were “no external injuries” found.

“When I was examined I didn’t take off my shirt,” the defendant replied.

The lawyer was sceptical.

“You were taken to the doctor and you didn’t take off your shirt?”

Mr Treebhoowon explained: “The doctor didn’t talk to me.”

Mr Manrakhan offered an alternative explanation: “That means you never got beaten, there are no injuries, you agree with that? You would have got some marks on your body?”

The accused responded firmly: “I got beaten.”

Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah also asked the defendant to account for the apparent anomaly.

“You want me to believe that after 13 slaps your face was still normal?

“Amongst these slaps you got a big slap to the ear which hurt your ear. These slaps were given by big men — they didn’t caress you, they slapped you.”

Mr Manrakhan said two days later the accused was examined again, this time by a police doctor.

“He didn’t see any injuries on your body or your heels. I tell you why he couldn’t see anything; because you never got beaten.”

Mr Treebhoowon maintained that he had been repeatedly assaulted.

Mr Manrakhan challenged him: “I tell you you never got beaten, you lied.”

“No, I got beaten,” said the defendant.

The prosecutor also questioned him about his claim that senior police officer Yoosoof Soopun threatened to kill him during interrogation, showing him a revolver he had in his sock.

Mr Manrakhan said assistant commissioner Soopun had already produced records in court to show he had not been officially iss-ued with a firearm that day.

“Did you see it in a film?” asked the lawyer.

The defendant rejected the suggestion.

Mr Treebhoowon had already told the court he was in room 1025, where Mrs McAreavey was found dead, to clean it on the day of the crime, but insisted he left at 2.35pm — 10 minutes before the prosecution claims she was strangled.

The prosecutor queried his insistence that he had not seen a wallet on the table, noting it was spotted by many people who attended the scene of crime.

“Everyone else saw the wallet,” he said.

“No I didn’t see it,” replied the accused.

The lawyer later turned to the alleged confession statement of Jan 13, 2011.

After agreeing with the contents of the first half of the statement, Mr Treebhoowon’s answers changed when the topic of the murder was reached.

He insisted he had not spotted the purse or plotted with Mr Mooneea to steal some notes.

“No, it’s lies,” he said.

Mr Manrakhan then read from the statement that Mrs McAreavey had entered the room and a struggle ensued.

He said it read that Mr Treebhoowon had pushed her to the ground and then Mr Mooneea grabbed her neck with his hand, choking her until she fell unconscious.

The lawyer said the injuries were consistent with those found during the autopsy but stressed that the medical report was not with police at the time the statement was taken.

“It’s compatible [the pattern of injuries] with the version of your statement,” claimed Mr Manrakhan.

Mr Treebhoowon insisted that part was lies — he said the same of the apparent words of regret and plea for forgiveness at the end of the statement. “I didn’t say anything like that,” he said.

The prosecutor put it to him that he had given the statement voluntarily.

“Whatever you said in the statement is true, what do you say to that?”

“It’s not true,” he replied.

The lawyer went on: “We all saw that you are a big liar, you and Sandip Mooneea killed that lady.”

“No, lies!” answered Mr Treebhoowon.

Court adjourned for a period yesterday after the judge accused Mr Manrakhan of being “insolent” in response to a defence request for an early end to the day’s proceedings.

Mr Manrakhan apologised to the judge and jury. Mr Justice Fecknah thanked the lawyer for saying sorry and acknowledged that the six-week trial had been “taxing” on everybody.

The trial continues.

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