Saturday 21 October 2017

Jury accepted claim that the accused was tortured into confessing to crime

Sandip Moneea celebrates with his wife after being found not guilty of murdering Michaela McAreavey
Sandip Moneea celebrates with his wife after being found not guilty of murdering Michaela McAreavey
Not guilty: Avinash Treebhoowoon celebrates with his wife after his acquittal

AVINASH Treebhoowoon was tortured into confessing to a murder he did not commit by a police force in a hurry to find someone to blame.

The jury's 'not guilty' verdict showed that they believed the room cleaner's insistence that a detailed admission statement produced three days after Michaela McAreavey's death, which bore his signature, was a mere fabrication.

Relief at being spared a potential 60-year jail term will be tempered with anger that he has been incarcerated for the last 18 months on what jurors evidently concluded was a tissue of lies invented by detectives.

The 32-year-old will now attempt to restart his life, still on medication for the recurring nightmares he claims he has about the officers who beat him into signing.

Mr Treebhoowoon had been working at Legends hotel for almost five years when Mrs McAreavey was murdered last January.

As a room attendant, he was paid 7,800 Mauritian rupees a month -- about €200.

It was during that time that he met his wife Reshma. The couple married in 2009. She soon became pregnant but lost the child.

Vigil

She was present at court throughout the trial as a potential defence witness. For six weeks she maintained a quiet vigil on a bench outside court room five, unable to attend proceedings.

But each morning she would scurry over to the dock to spend a few moments with him before court began.

When her husband's lawyers decided not to call her to give evidence, she was finally able to sit and listen to the trial's concluding phases.

Mr Treebhoowoon grew up in a small village in the north of the island, leaving school without qualifications.

Before Legends he had worked in another hotel -- the Meridien -- and had also worked as a lorry driver and in a textile factory.

During his time in the Meridien he was suspended for two weeks after an Italian couple claimed that €500 had been stolen from their room.

Mr Treebhoowoon insisted that he was cleared by a disciplinary committee, which blamed one of his co-workers, and he went on to work at the hotel for another two years.

At the time of the murder, he was one of five room attendants working under the supervision of his co-accused Sandip Moneea.

One of those he worked with was Raj Theekoy, a man he considered a friend but who would go on to implicate him in the murder as the prosecution's star witness.

Illiterate

Up until two weeks before the murder, he and his wife had lived at his parents' house in Amaury, a rural village in the centre of the island.

There he spoke a language of Indian origin, Bhojpuri. His father, Sooriedeo, is an illiterate labourer.

Mr Treebhoowoon claimed that he had a fight with his father on December 22, 2010, over his failure to buy gas for the house. The row prompted him to leave.

He stayed for a short period with his wife's mother but then moved into rented accommodation. This was an episode that prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan found hard to explain, asking where Mr Treebhoowoon had got the money to pay for the new pad.

"This is a man who would fight with his father over buying a gas cylinder and yet find the money to go rent a house for him and his wife to live in?" he queried.

The incident that saw him move out assumed great significance in the trial.

After he had signed the confession statement, Mr Treebhoowoon met briefly with his father in a police station. An officer who witnessed the incident claimed that the suspect said: "Forget about your son now. I have made a mistake."

But in the witness box, both Mr Treebhoowoon and his father insisted that he was talking about the family fallout and not the murder, instead saying: "Don't forget about your son."

Irish Independent

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