Wednesday 20 September 2017

Michaela murder trial: We didn’t check for prints – police

Sergeant Mohammad
Reaz Dhonye, who gave
evidence at the Mauritian
Supreme Court
yesterday
Sergeant Mohammad Reaz Dhonye, who gave evidence at the Mauritian Supreme Court yesterday
John McAreavey and Mark Harte, right, arriving at the court.

Cormac McQuinn In Mauritius

A BELT found in the room of Michaela McAreavey was considered a possible murder weapon by police but was not tested for fingerprints, the trial heard.

A police witness who collected evidence told how officers suspected that a man's belt could have been used to "compress the neck of the victim".

Sergeant Mohammad Reaz Dhonye, of the Mauritian police force's scene of crime office, also described how he conducted fingerprinting of the McAreaveys' room, 1025, and said he was not aware if the content of their laptop or phones was analysed.

The pace of the trial, where former hotel workers Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea deny Michaela's murder, picked up yesterday as the court heard from five witnesses.

Defence lawyer Rama Valayden questioned PS Dhonye about his examination of the Legends Hotel room where Michaela's body was found lying in a bathtub.

Mr Valayden asked about a belt found near the bed and asked if it was tested for fingerprints, with the police officer saying it wasn't.

Mr Valayden said: "In your report you stated that the black belt may have been used to strangle the victim," to which PS Dhonye replied, "no, I never mentioned ... "

Mr Valayden cut in: "I did not mistake that" and later produced the report which he asked the officer to read.

PS Dhonye read that the belt "may have been used to compress the neck of the victim".

Mr Valayden also asked if Michaela's purse -- which the accused men were allegedly stealing from -- was tested for fingerprints, and the officer replied "no, my lord".

The court heard from former hotel room attendant Ravindradeo Seetohul, who said he had told police he had seen both accused men in the vicinity of Michaela's room on the afternoon she was killed.

However, he claimed the police were not concerned about accurate times for when he saw them.

The next witness was Sergeant Mohammad Rasheed Bhugaloo of the police force's Major Crime Investigation Unit.

He told the court about a conversation between Mr Treebhoowoon and his father Sooriadeo that he had noted in a police diary in the days after the accused man's arrest.

He had claimed Mr Treebhoowoon had burst into tears and told his father, "forget your son now, I made a mistake".

The other defence lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, later put it to him that Mr Treebhoowoon had actually said: "Dad, don't forget your son, I have done a mistake by leaving home, I ask for your forgiveness, I want to return home."

Denied

Sgt Bhugaloo denied these were Mr Treebhoowoon's words. He also claimed not to know that the defendant's father -- who he asked to sign the diary entry -- was illiterate.

An officer from the police complaints bureau, Sgt Swaraj Pudaruth, told how he investigated a complaint made by lawyer Ravi Rutnah who said his client, Mr Treebhoowoon, had a confession beaten out of him.

Sgt Pudaruth said no senior police officers accused of brutality against Mr Treebhoowoon were prepared to make statements in response to Mr Rutnah's letter.

Another police officer, Corporal Jean Baptiste, told how he conducted tests on a bathtub in Legends Hotel in the days after John found his wife's body in cold water in a similar tub in their hotel room.

Though it was a different tub to the one Michaela's body was found in, he said that filling it took 23 minutes and 26 seconds.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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