Plastic bag put over Michaela's head in murder, autopsy shows
Published 22/06/2011 | 05:00
A PLASTIC bag was placed over Michaela Harte's head during her murder, a police post-mortem report has found.
The report, seen by the Irish Independent, reveals new information about the killing of the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone boss Mickey Harte on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
Other details include:
•Laboratory tests were conducted on a plastic bag that was used to cover Ms Harte's head but no traces of the suspects' DNA were found.
•She died from asphyxia due to compression of the neck.
•It is not clear from the forensics report, or police statements, seen by this newspaper, who removed the bag from Michaela's head.
•Michaela had several abrasions in the front of her neck as well as suffering small patches of bruises to the front of her neck and larger bruises over her right and left collar bones.
•DNA from the nail cuttings and swabbed samples from her neck do not match samples taken from hotel workers who were initially named as suspects: Sandip Moneea, Avinash Treebhowon, Dassen Narayanen or Raj Theekoy.
The reliability of DNA evidence is now being called into question as the crime scene was not preserved meticulously by Mauritian police.
Sandip Moneea (41) and Avinash Treebhowon (30) appeared in Mapou District Court yesterday, where a preliminary inquiry into Michaela's murder on January 10 is continuing. The two men are accused of murdering her at her room in the luxury Legends hotel while she was on honeymoon with her husband, John McAreavey.
Meanwhile, a third man, Dassen Narayanen (26), appeared in the court yesterday at a separate hearing and was charged with conspiracy to larceny at the Legends Hotel on the date of Michaela's murder.
Mr Narayanen was working in the vicinity of room 1025, where the murder took place.
He had sought to change shifts on January 10. He asked his manager if he could be moved from manning the main security gate because he had a sore leg . He asked to be moved to a position patrolling the area close to the crime scene. Mr Narayanen had claimed earlier this year that he had seen a colleague -- Seenarain Mungoo (39) -- with an electronic key to the couple's room. But he later confessed to having stolen the key himself.
The state prosecution have not yet included Mr Narayanen as a witness to the preliminary inquiry into the murder and it is not yet known if he will give evidence at the full hearing.
The fourth man, Mr Theekoy, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder because he heard screams but did not run to help. But the charge was dropped and he is now a star witness for the prosecution.
During the pre-trial hearing yesterday, Mauritian police were accused of brutality by defence lawyers who claim their clients were beaten while in custody.
The court heard the Director of Public Prosecutions in Mauritius has ordered that the allegations of police brutality be investigated. But the accused will have to make formal complaints to the police before the matter can be probed.
State prosecutor Mehdi Choony asked defence counsel for Mr Treebhowon, Ravi Rutnah, to "seriously consider" the advice of the DPP to withdraw from the case as a defence barrister. But Mr Rutnah replied that he was "shocked by the practices used by police to extract confessions" from his client.
"I am ashamed of my country at this point because police officers from the Major Crime Investigation Team are behaving like gangsters," he said.
Defence lawyers have requested the disclosure of all evidence. It is understood that Mapou Magistrate Sheila Bonomally has not granted this request. A list of more than 30 witnesses was called out at yesterday's hearing. John James McAreavey's name was read out by the court registrar to which the reply "absent" was heard.
Mauritian barrister Dick Sui Wa, who is keeping a watching brief for the McAreavey and Harte families, stated that Mr McAreavey was available to the prosecution at any time. He will not be needed until the case proceeds to the trial stage.
The inquiry will not be sitting today but 11 witnesses have been ordered to attend the hearing when it continues tomorrow.