Police investigating the murder of Michaela McAreavey have diced with justice and risked the reputation of Mauritius by accusing a man who could not have physically committed the crime, his trial was warned.
A lawyer for Sandip Moneea claimed evidence would show that he was on a four-minute phone call to his sister at the time the prosecution contends the Co Tyrone honeymooner was strangled in her hotel room on the island.
In a 90-minute statement to open his case, Rama Valayden said he was angry because those really responsible for the “despicable murder” were walking free while an innocent man sat in the dock.
In a speech laden with historical references, quoting among others Martin Luther King and French philosopher Voltaire, the barrister was withering in his assessment of the police investigation, particularly the officers from the major crime investigation team (MCIT).
“They are putting the state of Mauritius in a dangerous situation,” he said.
“They are dicing with the reputation of this country, with the reputation of police in this country and they are dicing with justice.”
Previewing the evidence he would present to the jury at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mr Valayden said phone records would prove Moneea was calling his sister at 2.45pm on January 10 last year – the time he and co-defendant Avinash Treebhoowoon are accused of attacking the daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte.
“Killing at one time and phoning at the same time?” the lawyer asked the nine jurors.
“No one can do that.”
The lawyer delivered his statement after Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, the lawyer representing Treebhoowoon, rested his defence case.
One of his final witnesses was the father of the accused Sooriedeo Treebhoowoon, who under cross examination faced an accusation of lying in the witness box to save his son.
Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan challenged the 52-year-old labourer that he made up a claim the defendant told him he was being beaten by police shortly after he signed a statement in which he admitted involvement in the crime.
His son has insisted the admission was extracted by police brutality
Mr Manrakhan said the father’s claim about his conversation with Treebhoowoon in a police station had not been mentioned once by his son’s lawyer or even the accused himself when he gave evidence.
The witness said he loved his son very much but denied he had lied to help him.
Former room attendant at the exclusive hotel Treebhoowoon, 32, from Plaine des Roches, and ex-floor supervisor Moneea, 42, from Petit Raffray, deny any involvement in the 27-year-old teacher’s death
In his opening address, Mr Valayden said from what he had heard of Mrs McAreavey she was someone who had never done any harm to anyone.
“The true murderer is outside,” he added.
“The true murderer is walking free, the true murderer is doing what they want.”
He said inside court the judicial system and the reputation of the island was being murdered.
The barrister, who was once a government minister and Mauritian attorney general, reminded jurors that no DNA links to either of the accused was found on swabs taken from Mrs McAreavey’s body or from other samples taken at the crime scene.
He was scathing of the police response to these findings – that they remained “satisfied” they still had the right men.
“We must take it as a mantra,” he said of the police stance.
“The (jail) door is open, send them for 60 years, the case is over, even though the right person has not been found.”
Mrs McAreavey’s widower John had been in court earlier in the day. But he and other family members were not present during Mr Valayden’s speech, which ran late into the afternoon.
The lawyer accused the police of failing to carry out a number of basic checks and tests at the hotel.
He said ordinarily it should not have been difficult to identify the culprit in such a well monitored resort.
“That’s my anger – that we could have solved this problem easily,” he said.
Mr Valayden then rounded on star prosecution witness and ex-Legends employee Raj Theekoy.
Mr Theekoy claims he saw Moneea and Treebhoowoon exit from the direction of room 1025, where the newlywed was found dead, shortly after 2.45pm and moments after hearing a woman cry out in pain from inside.
The former room attendant was originally charged in connection with the crime but the case was subsequently dropped and he was granted immunity from prosecution ahead of testifying on the stand.
Mr Valayden claimed he had found 75 contradictions in the evidence he gave to the trial.
“If truth is walking one way and Theekoy walking the other way, the truth will run away from Theekoy,” he said.
He urged the jurors to ask themselves why he had been granted immunity.
“What does he have to hide?” he questioned.
Mr Valayden will begin calling witnesses tomorrow as the much-delayed trial enters its final phases.