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Michaela McAreavey murder accused claims police tried to suffocate him with towel

By David Young

One of the two men charged with murdering newly-wed Tyrome teacher Michaela McAreavey claims police tried to suffocate him with a towel and held his head in a bucket of water while he was interrogated.

Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, confessed to police about his involvement in strangling the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, but now insists he was forced to sign the statement.

His lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry repeated a complaint his client made to court authorities in the days after the death in January last year.

The accused said he was beaten in the face and on the heels.

Reading his client's statement, Mr Teeluckdharry said: "I was made to suffocate in a towel."

He said on one occasion officers filled a bucket of water.

"I was on a chair, I was gripped by the neck and placed in that pail of water," read his lawyer.

Treebhoowoon, 30, and co-accused Sandip Moneea, 42, deny murdering the 27-year-old teacher on her honeymoon at the Legends Hotel.

Earlier, Mauritian police were accused of a catastrophic failure to take crime scene photos that may have helped in investigation.

Defence lawyer Ravi Rutnah repeatedly challenged a Mauritian police photographer why certain supposedly relevant items and areas had not been assessed or captured in the hours after the Co Tyrone teacher was found dead.

As graphic images of the murder scene, with Mrs McAreavey's body still in situ, were shown to jurors police constable Harris Jeewooth defended his work and insisted he only pictured what he was instructed to.

But Mr Rutnah, who is defending one of the accused Avinash Treebhoowoon, was not convinced.

"There has been catastrophic failure to take photos that may have been significant to this inquiry," he said.

At one point in the cross examination, Mr Jeewooth revealed that the case was the first murder investigation he had ever worked on.

Rama Valayden, lawyer for co-accused Sandip Moneea, focused on the items discovered in room 1025, where Mrs McAreavey was found dead in the bathtub.

He paid particular attention to the biscuits she apparently left the poolside at the Legends Hotel to fetch moments before her death.

Mr Jeewooth said he had seen them in a half-opened drawer below a table in the bedroom when he first visited the scene.

But when shown a photo taken two days later, he acknowledged that the biscuit packet had been moved to the top of the table, even though the room had apparently been sealed off by police.

The defence team vigorously probed the constable about the scene in and around room 1025.

Agreeing there was no fence cutting off the room from the beach it backed on to, the photographer revealed no photos were taken of the sand outside to check for footprints.

Mr Jeeworth said he could not remember if he had seen if there were CCTV cameras covering the room entrance and he had not pictured any.

The officer was asked to provide more details about a belt found on the floor, but he said he could not recall specifics.

The photographer was also challenged on the use of black and white photos.

Treebhoowoon's senior counsel Sanjeev Teeluckdharry said: "You can see things (in colour) you can't see in black in white?"

Mr Jeewooth responded: "I can't say that."

The officer told the court that room 1025 was "very disturbed" when he arrived on site around three hours after the murder.

He said the bath in which the Co Tyrone woman's body was found was three quarters full and there were traces of reddish material on the bottom.

At one point judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah warned Mr Jeewooth to stop being evasive after he answered a number of questions with: "I don't remember."

"I would ask you to make an effort to remember and I would ask you to answer questions in a manner which is clear so we know what you are saying," he said.

Mr Jeewooth will resume giving evidence tomorrow.

John's frantic bid to revive Michaela

John McAreavey's frantic bid to revive the body of his lifeless bride Michaela was outlined in harrowing detail as prosecutors opened the case against the men accused of her murder.

That morning in January last year had started out so well, the jury heard, with the couple having breakfast together before John went for a golf lesson while Michaela decided to go for a dip in the pool at the Legends Hotel.

Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan told Mauritius's Supreme Court that they then met up for something to eat at the restaurant beside the pool.

"After having had their lunch Michaela ordered tea and went to her room to fetch her biscuits which she was fond of having with her tea," he said.

"John stayed behind at the restaurant and waited and waited for her to come back."

"Members of the jury, Michaela would never return to John. This was the last time that John saw his beautiful wife Michaela alive."

Concerned as to what had happened to his wife, Mr Manrakhan said Mr McAreavey settled the lunch bill and went back to their room - 1025.

"Reaching room 1025, since John did not have his magnetic key card with him, he had to knock on the door," explained the lawyer. "Seeing that there was no answer he decided to go to the hotel reception to ask for help. A bell boy accompanied him back to room 1025 to allow him to enter the room.

"Members of the jury, as soon as John entered room 1025 his worst nightmare began.

"In the bathroom John saw Michaela lying senseless in the bathtub.

"John removed Michaela from the bathtub, laid her on the floor and went to cry for help.

"The bell boy who had accompanied John was still in the vicinity of room 1025 and they both went back to room 1025 where John tried to revive Michaela.

"Members of the jury, it was too late.

"Michaela was already dead."

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