Tuesday 24 April 2018

Chief inspector Gerard grilled for three hours in cross examination

David Young

CHIEF Inspector Luciano Gerard, who led the investigation into the murder of Michaela McAreavey, faced almost three hours of intensive cross examination on whether he and his officers tortured one of the men accused.

Time and again Avinash Treebhoowoon's lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry confronted the police officer with his client's claims of brutality.

The hotel cleaner confessed to the murder but has since insisted the admission was extracted by force.

In a packed court room, five of the Mauritian Supreme Court fell silent as the frosty exchanges between the tenacious lawyer and seemingly unflappable witness unfolded.

Mr Teeluckdharry put it to CI Gerard that Treebhoowoon was taken to the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT) offices at Line Barracks in Port Louis on January 11 last year - the day after the murder - and bundled into the kitchen.

Q: My instructions are three officers came toward him and told him to remove all his clothes - his shirt, his trousers, his shoes, his socks. Prior to that your officers removed handcuffs.

A: Never, my lord.

Q: My instructions are also the officers told him to lie on the table in the kitchen.

A: As I said earlier, my lord, we were in the front room.

Q: Accused number two (Sandip Moneea) was in the front room.

A: When we arrived we were all in the front room.

Q: When my client was made to lie naked on the table he was handcuffed again.

A: Never, my lord.

Q: One officer bent over his body.

A: Those are all false allegations.

Q: Another one took hold of both his legs.

A: Never, my lord.

Q: One of the officers took a broken plastic PVC pipe and hit several times on the soles of his feet.

A: Never, my lord, because such a case, this murder case, we know we have to bring the accused suspect on the next day before a court of law so this kind of treatment has never been used at the MCIT.

Q: My instructions are my client cried. They then told him to get down off the table, they forced him to jump several times and they asked him whether his soles are burning with pain. And they told him they are telling him to jump and whether he knows why.

A: Never, my lord

Q: They told him so the blood doesn't clot

A: No, my lord.

Q: My client was in pain and crying and he was further questioned whether he knows how the lady in room 1025 was killed.

A: No, my lord.

Q; My instructions are that the officers then took a towel, they wrapped it on his head and he was further assaulted several times all over his body.

A: Never, my lord.

Q: They repeatedly asked as him to tell how the lady was killed.

A: No, my lord.

Q: He was then ordered to wear his clothes, he was ordered to go, he was then taken to a bathroom downstairs.

A: We only have a toilet downstairs, my lord.

Q: He was told to take quick bath.

A: No, my lord, there's no bathroom downstairs.

Q: He was then brought upstairs again and this time SP (Superintendent Yoosoof) Soopun was present.

A: Mr Soopun was always present in the office as far as I can recall.

Q: My instructions are Mr Soopun gave three slaps to my client and threatened him in the following terms - speak out - and shows him a revolver which was partly apparent in his sock of his right leg.

A: Never, my lord, I don't see Mr Soopun doing such a thing.

Focus then shifted to the next day, back at the MCIT offices after Treebhoowoon appeared in court on a provisional charge, at which time he also made a complaint of police brutality to the magistrate.

Q: There were six officers surrounding accused number one. One of the officers took a chair and came to sit right in front of accused number one, caught hold of the face of accused number one and he started slapping accused number one and he ended up giving a hard blow on the left ear of accused number one.

A: For me, this is unfounded and it's totally false. Mr Treebhoowoon was taken to court where he made a complaint before a magistrate, the magistrate ordered him to be brought before a GMO (general medical officer) and I don't see why we should, or a MCIT officer or any police officer, should expose himself by ill-treating or inflicting any bodily harm on Mr Treebhoowoon.

Q: My instructions are my client was in acute pain and he felt numb at the place of his ear and for some while he could not hear what was going on.

A: No, my lord, for me he was physically fit.

Q: Officers may have been shouting at him but he could not hear. They brought him on the same table that they had brought him on the eve (of the 11th).

A: No, my lord, he was never placed on any table whatsoever.

Q: They made him lie on the table, they handcuffed him behind his back.

A: No, my lord.

Q: He was made to lie on his belly on the table.

A: Never, my lord.

Q: They brought a chair in front of the table. And officer brought a pale (of water) out, placed it on a chair in front of the table, then one officer caught hold of my client's head from the back of his neck and plunged his head into the pale full of water.

A: Never, my lord. We don't have any pale of water at the MCIT.

Q: That officer plunged his head several times in the water, he was made to suffocate. He was made to feel that he's at the mercy of MCIT for a single breath of air.

A: I say again, my lord, those are totally false. As I said before Mr Treebhoowoon had appeared before a court of law, he has made a complaint.

Q: My client started to suffocate and started to vomit blood and one officer had some mercy and told them to stop as Avinash Treebhoowoon was suffocating and was vomiting blood.

A: This is totally false, my lord.

Q: And before stopping that ill treatment, one officer dealt a blow on the back of my client.

A: Never, my lord.

Mr Teeluckdharry continued to bombard the officer with questions about this encounter at the MCIT building.

Q: My instructions are that you, CI Gerard, were tired and exasperated and you said the following: what did you say? You were beaten? That was not a beating. That was a preview. Now speak. And you ordered your officers: take a van, bring his mother and father and lock them all up."

A: That's totally false and ridiculous, my lord.

Q: You also shouted the following at him - This man (John McAreavey) his wife is dead. He will need a woman to live with. That's why we will take away your wife (Reshma), take her passport and send her to Ireland to live with the husband. We will do this because the government is in our hands and no one can touch us.

A: Never, my lord

Q: My instructions are my client on that day fell on your feet and implored for pity, he then fell on the feet of all other MCIT officers and implored for pity.

A: I say again, this is totally false and ridiculous.

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