Thursday 19 April 2018

Accused was with me as Michaela died -- witness

Legends Hotel manager Brice Lunot and hotel cleaner Govinden Samynaden (right), leaving the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius yesterday
Legends Hotel manager Brice Lunot and hotel cleaner Govinden Samynaden (right), leaving the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius yesterday

Cormac McQuinn In Mauritius

A HOTEL cleaner giving testimony at the Michaela McAreavey murder trial yesterday claimed that he was washing floors with accused man Sandip Moneea at the time she was said to have been killed.

Govinden Samynaden has told the Mauritian Supreme Court that Mr Moneea, who has been accused of strangling Michaela, was with him, cleaning another room for 15 minutes at the time the prosecution said the murder was taking place.

He had been called by prosecution lawyer Mehdi Manrakhan, but the barrister was later forced to question his own witness, accusing him of being friends with Mr Moneea and covering for him.

Earlier, Mr Samynaden had tearfully claimed that he only made a statement to police in the days after Michaela's death after they had threatened him.

State prosecutor Mr Manrakhan asked Mr Samynaden about statements he made to police in the days after Michaela's murder, in which he said he had been in another room and had taken "two to three minutes" washing a floor.

Mr Samynaden said he couldn't remember saying that, before adding: "Maybe I said it."

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Rama Valayden, he said he had been cleaning rooms that afternoon when his supervisor, Mr Moneea, checked his work and pointed out his mistakes.

He had been washing the floor in room 1009 at 2.40pm on the afternoon of Michaela's death when Mr Moneea took the brush and started sweeping.

The court had earlier heard how a mystery key card was used to open the McAreaveys' room at 2.42pm.

Another witness, Raj Theekoy, has claimed that he heard a woman screaming around this time and saw Mr Moneea and his co-accused, Avinash Treebhoowoon, walking from the direction of the couple's room shortly after.

However, Mr Samynaden told the court Mr Moneea was still with him in room 1009 when he left to get towels at 2.55pm.

Threatened

Mr Valayden asked the cleaner about the statements he gave to police and the witness burst into tears. He said he didn't know what was in the statements and that the police had threatened him.

He continued: "I was in the room alone and they were telling me I was going to be arrested. They swore at me and told me I'm an orphan and don't have money to pay a barrister.

"They were all talking at the same time and hitting the table. When I told them they were making a mistake they got angry and said they'd lock me up. I was very upset so I signed the statement."

Mr Manrakhan then got an opportunity to re-examine the witness. He asked: "Is accused number two (Mr Moneea) your good friend?", Mr Samynaden replied: "He was my colleague."

Mr Manrakhan continued: "You joked together?", to which the witness said: "Cleaners and supervisors don't joke together."

Earlier, the chief security officer of Legends Hotel, Mohammad Mehtaz Imrit, told how the key card used to enter the McAreaveys' room on the afternoon of her death had not been signed for that day, nor has it since been recovered.

He also told how a former security officer at the hotel, Dassen Naraynan, was caught on CCTV walking on a wall behind the McAreaveys' room on January 10 2011.

Mr Naraynan, who is facing charges of conspiracy to commit larceny, was originally posted at the main gate but requested to be moved to the beach area. He called in sick in the following days, claiming to have a sprained ankle in a plaster cast.

Mr Imrit said he reported Mr Naraynan to the police after he was spotted walking normally and without a cast at a local supermarket. He was arrested on January 18, 2011.

Irish Independent

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