Belfast Telegraph

Crucial witness won't be called in Michaela McAreavey murder trial

By Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

The lawyer for one of the first suspects in the death of Michaela McAreavey said she is mystified he won't be called to testify — even though he has “crucial evidence”.

Poonum Sookun, representing former Legends Hotel security guard Dassen Narainan (27), is asking why the prosecutor has not sought to put her client in the witness box

She said that Mr Narainan, the only suspect whose DNA was found at the scene of the murder, had “crucial evidence” as one of the staff at the luxury resort who was in Michaela's room the day she was killed.

Hotel workers Avinash Treebhowon (29) and Sandip Moneea (41) have been charged with the popular Tyrone woman’s murder.

The 27-year-old bride was on honeymoon with husband John McAreavey in 2011 when she stumbled upon a robbery in her room and was attacked.

Mr Narainan was also arrested and originally charged with conspiracy to murder. But it was downgraded to conspiracy to commit larceny after he confessed to giving Mr Moneea a key-card to access the couple's room.

Mr Narainan has claimed this confession was extracted at gunpoint by police and, speaking last night, he denied involvement in Michaela's death.

He said his DNA was only present in the hotel room because he responded to Mr McAreavey's cries for help when he discovered his wife's lifeless body.

Now his lawyer has questioned why prosecutor Mehdi Choony has not insisted that her client appear as a witness in the trial, due to start tomorrow.

According to Ms Sookun, her client had been in the hotel room only after John had found Michaela's body.

“He has evidence of when he saw Michaela on the floor and he went to help John and was trying to wake her up,” Ms Sookun said. “This is crucial evidence. They might have even chosen to call him for the sake of clarity.”

Ms Sookun said Mr Narainan's DNA had been found on the wardrobe door in the bathroom because he had opened it to get a wet towel to use in attempts to revive Michaela.

“For me, the DNA he has explained,” she said. “He has never denied being in the room with John.”

She added: “The prosecutor is free to choose whoever he wants to call as his witness. So why does the prosecutor not call Dassen? What is the reasoning behind it?”

Mr Choony could not be contacted last night.

Another security guard, Seenarain Mungoo, was later arrested after Mr Narainan said that he had handled the key-card used to access the room.

Mr Narainan had also said that he gave the key-card to Mr Moneea but has since claimed that this confession, along with the false statement against Mr Mungoo, were made after police held a gun to his head.

Another suspect, Mr Treebhowoon, also said he was forced to confess to his alleged involvement in Michaela's death after he was beaten by police.

The Mauritian police have denied mistreating the men.

Asked if he had had any involvement in Michaela's death Mr Narainan, speaking through his lawyer, replied “no” and said: “If I knew Michaela had been murdered, I wouldn't have even gone inside the room. I would have done all I could to help John from outside.”

Background

Michaela McAreavey was the only daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte.

She was on honeymoon in Mauritius with new husband John on January 10, 2011 when she was murdered.

It is believed she disturbed intruders after returning to their room at the Legends Hotel.

The burglars attacked the newlywed, strangling her before dumping her body in the bath.

Packed courthouse to hear opening of proceedings

By Cormac McQuinn

When the trial of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey gets under way tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court of Mauritius is expected to be packed.

The colonial-era courthouse in Port Louis is anticipating what will be one of the biggest murder trials in the small Indian Ocean island's history.

Michaela's husband John McAreavey will watch as the men charged with killing his wife, Avinash Treebhowon and Sandip Moneea, face Judge Prithviraj Fekna in hearings that are set to last more than two weeks.

Both of the men and their families have claimed that they are innocent.

A nine-person jury must be selected and the judge will also reportedly consider an application by one of the accused, Mr Moneea, to be given a separate trial. His lawyer is expected to argue that a confession made by Mr Treebhowon, in which he claimed Mr Moneea strangled Michaela, prejudices the case against his client.

As many as 36 witnesses are expected to testify, including “star witness” Raj Theekoy, a hotel cleaner who is to describe how he heard a woman “shouting in pain” moments before Michaela's body was found.

Originally charged in connection to the murder, he has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Mr McAreavey who found his wife's body is also a witness. The accused face up to 60 years in prison if found guilty.

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