Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

McAreavey probe police admit lapses

Avinash Treebhoowoon was interrogated without a lawyer, the Michaela McAreavey murder trial has ben told

Police failed to interview a series of potential witnesses in the aftermath of Michaela McAreavey's murder, a senior officer has admitted in court.

Detectives did not take statements from a number of fellow guests at the luxury Legends Hotel in Mauritius who were staying close to the room where the honeymooner was strangled, the trial of two men accused of the murder heard.

The chief inspector who led the investigation also told the jury at the Supreme Court in Port Louis that hotel CCTV footage was not used to establish where certain suspects had been during the day of the crime - with only the movements of Mrs McAreavey's husband John fully traced.

Questioned by a lawyer for Sandip Moneea, one of the two Legends employees accused of the murder, Chief Inspector Luciano Gerard conceded he did not know that two garments - a bikini top and belt - had been found at the crime scene when police finally handed control of room 1025 back to the hotel two weeks later.

Moneea, 42, and Avinash Treebhoowoon, 31, both deny murdering the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football boss Mickey Harte last January.

Earlier, Mr Gerard rejected a claim that he denied Treebhoowoon his constitutional rights by interrogating him without a lawyer present. The hotel cleaner confessed to the murder but has since insisted the admission was beaten out of him.

His lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, accused police of mixing together various previous statements to produce the confession and then forcing his client to sign it. Mr Gerard insisted Treebhoowoon signed it voluntarily.

Mr Teeluckdharry also defended the length of time - almost six hours - he took to cross-examine the police officer. "I understand the time frame but my client could be sent to hell for 60 years and I will need to take as long I need to take," he said.

A Legends employee who claims he heard cries from room 1025 and then saw the two defendants emerge was poised to take the witness stand. But just after Raj Theekoy entered court, judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah decided it was too late in the day to embark on fresh testimony and told him to return on Monday.

Mr Theekoy was originally a suspect in the case but has since had a conspiracy to murder charge against him dropped.

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