Wednesday 18 October 2017

Police accused of fabricating hotel worker's confession

Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

A SENIOR police officer has been accused of fabricating the contents of a confession signed by one of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey.

The lawyer for Avinash Treebhoowoon made the allegation as he continued cross-examining Chief Inspector Luciano Gerard, accusing him putting together an "enhanced" confession statement, and forcing his client to sign it.

Hotel workers Mr Treebhoowoon (29) and Sandip Moneea (41) have been charged with the murder of the honeymooner. The 27-year-old bride was in Mauritius with her husband John McAreavey in January 2011 when she allegedly stumbled upon a robbery in her room and was attacked.

Yesterday, lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry said the confession was patched together from statements made by Mr Treebhoowoon and the prosecutions 'star witness' Raj Theekoy, another hotel worker who is expected to give evidence on Monday.

Meanwhile, the court also heard how police failed to take statements from Legends Hotel guests who were staying in suites surrounding room 1025, which Michaela had been sharing with her husband John.

He read out a string of names of hotel staff and guests who CI Gerard admitted weren't interviewed for statements.

CI Gerard did not explain why police failed to take statements.

Yesterday was CI Gerard's second day of intense questioning by Mr Teeluckdharry.

On Thursday, the court heard claims that Mr Treebhoowoon's confession was extracted after torture and threats from police officers of the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), where CI Gerard was leading the investigation.

In an interrogation the night before Mr Treebhoowoon confessed, CI Gerard allegedly threatened to lock up the accused man's parents and send his wife Reshma to Ireland as a replacement for John's murdered bride Michaela.

Yesterday it was claimed that the threats were renewed on the morning of the confession.

Police transporting the prisoner to MCIT headquarters allegedly threatened to throw him under a moving bus "if you don't accept that you are the one who killed that woman".

Mr Teeluckdharry said that Mr Treebhoowoon's former lawyer Ravi Rutnah had sought a private meeting with his client but was refused by police who told him "to remain seated and keep silent" throughout the recording of the confession.

Mr Teeluckdharry noted that several statements were taken by police at Legends Hotel in days following Michaela's death, including one by his client.

The lawyer put it to CI Gerard that he had "all of this material" and said: "You reproduced the statement accused number one (Treebhoowoon) gave on 11 January 2011 at Piton CID.

'Allegations'

"You reproduced the statements of other witnesses and you brought in the statement of witness number 30, Raj Theekoy, and you incorporated part of the allegations of Mr Theekoy. You made an enhanced statement and my client was coerced to sign it."

CI Gerard was never given an opportunity to answer the accusation.

Prosecution lawyer Mehdi Manrakhan intervened saying: "I have to object. A serious allegation is being put to the witness."

In the confession Mr Treebhoowoon admitted to grabbing Michaela, while co-accused Sandip Moneea strangled her, after she interrupted them stealing from her hotel room.

And it also emerged that officers had failed to identify a clear handprint on the door of the honeymoon couple's room.

Mr Theekoy is being called to give evidence on Monday.

Irish Independent

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