No CCTV footage in honeymoon murder case, detective admits
Existing footage is 'of no use' in probe
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
CCTV footage implicating the men accused of murdering Michaela Harte never existed, it has emerged.
A senior detective involved in the investigation admitted to the Irish Independent last night that he had not viewed the footage handed over by the Legends Hotel in Mauritius during the police inquiry as it was not of the relevant area.
During a press conference just days after Ms Harte was found strangled on January 10 in her hotel room at the resort, having apparently interrupted a robbery, police had said the suspects were caught on CCTV speaking together in the corridor outside the couple's room.
However, during a court hearing a few weeks later, officers said they had yet to view the CCTV footage from the hotel.
Last night, Detective Inspector Ranjit Jokhoo, who is second in command at the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: "There's no CCTV in the rooms or in the vicinity of the rooms. It's just CCTV from the compound. We didn't view them in our inquiry... they were of no use."
Det Insp Jokhoo made further contradictory statements before saying he would need to re-check the matter with his crime team colleagues.
General manager of the Legends Hotel Brice Lunot has insisted that he gave the hard-drive from his camera system to the police as part of their probe.
The issue of the CCTV had been raised in court earlier yesterday on the first day of the pre-trial hearing on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
Avinash Treebhowon (30) and Sandip Moneea (41) appeared in a courtroom in rural Mapou, on the north of the island. The pair are accused of murdering 27-year-old Michaela while she was on honeymoon in the luxury Legends hotel with her husband, John McAreavey.
A clean-shaven Mr Moneea, who worked as a floor supervisor in the Legends Hotel, wore pressed slacks, a blue shirt and open-toe footwear. Mr Treebhowon looked boyish and frightened, while just a few feet away, tears rolled down his wife Reshma's cheeks.
Mr Moneea -- the prime suspect in the case -- has consistently said he was innocent.
Neither of the men spoke during the hearing, which lasted less than two hours.
Det Insp Jokhoo stood at the back of the room as defence lawyers put forward a motion asking for DNA evidence, medical reports and CCTV to be released to them.
But the prosecution for the state said in open court that there was no CCTV available.
The defence team also expressed concerns about an unnamed man who moved addresses and attempted to destroy evidence on the day of the killing by washing it away "in a bath tub with running water".
During their opening speech the defence claimed that the electronic key card used to access Michaela's room was "not in the safe custody of the police".
Three bags of evidence containing material relating to the trial were placed in front of the international media. The bags were not labelled or sealed and open envelopes were stuffed inside.
Members of the McAreavey and the Harte families were not in court yesterday but Mauritian barrister Dick Sui Wa is keeping a watching brief for them. He said there was "no pressure" from the family but that they wanted to ensure the trial was conducted properly.
"They see that things are being done," he added.
Mr McAreavey's name was read out in court yesterday as he is a witness in the case.
His presence will not be required at the pre-trial hearing, however, as a written statement has been accepted by the police. He will have to return to Mauritius at a later date once a full murder trial gets under way.
There were emotional scenes outside the court as the prime suspect's wife, Rekha Moneea (39), repeated that her husband was innocent.
If found guilty of murder the men face up to 60 years in jail. The pre-trial continues today.