Saturday 23 September 2017

Michaela murder: Police made ‘catastrophic’ error at hotel scene

Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela on her wedding day
Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela on her wedding day
Avinash Treebhoowoon (left) and Sandip Mooneea arrive at the Supreme court in Port Louis, Mauritius on day two of their trial. Photo: PA
Michaela Harte and John McAreavey.
Michaela Harte with her husband John McAreavey.
John McAreavey and his late wife Michaela
Honeymooners: Michaela Harte and John McAreavey had been 'planning their lives together'

David Young in Mauritius

POLICE catastrophically failed to take crime scene photos that may have helped in the Michaela McAreavey murder investigation, a trial heard.

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.

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