A HOTEL worker who confessed to murdering Michaela McAreavey had his head held under water and was almost suffocated with a towel during interrogation, a court heard yesterday.
Avinash Treebhoowoon insists that his admission of guilt was extracted due to police brutality.
The court in Mauritius also heard claims that officers failed to put anti-contamination clothes on Mr Treebhoowoon when he was taken to the crime scene at the luxury Legends Hotel for a reconstruction three days after the murder.
In another twist, it was later revealed to the jury that a witness who claims to have seen Mr Treebhoowoon and his co-accused, Sandip Moneea, leave the room where the honeymooner was strangled, had himself been charged in connection with the crime.
Raj Theekoy, who is also an employee at the hotel, and two other men had been accused of conspiracy to murder the daughter of the Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, but all three subsequently had the charges against them dropped.
It has also emerged that the bathtub in which Michaela's husband John found her body was mysteriously removed in the days after her death.
This is the second example of alleged interference with the crime scene -- which was supposed to have been sealed off.
Yesterday, Mr Treebhoowoon's defence team outlined his claims of torture by the police, including simulated drowning and suffocation.
His counsel, Sanjeev Treeluckdarry, also said his client was beaten on the soles of his feet and smacked on his left ear with such force that he is now partially deaf.
Mr Treebhoowoon confessed last year to taking part in the burglary of the McAreaveys' hotel room and he implicated his fellow defendant, Sandip Moneea, in killing the young bride.
However, his defence team has claimed that his confession was extracted as a result of beatings after his arrest. The Mauritian police force has denied these allegations.
Defence lawyer Mr Treeluckdarry read his client's statement, beginning with his arrest the day after Michaela's death.
According to Mr Treebhoowoon: "I was brought to Port Louis, where I was undressed, placed in a lying position and assaulted at my heels. Then I was dealt five slaps at my left ear.
"I was made to suffocate in a towel and was assaulted again on a table. In a police van, I was dealt further blows."
Mr Treebhoowoon said he was again undressed and put sitting on a chair the following day. Then, "a pail of water was filled" and "I was pressed by the neck into that pail of water."
He claimed that the next day he was beaten by officers in the back of a police van.
Earlier in the morning the defence team resumed the cross-examination of police photographer Sutish Sharma Jeetwooth.
It emerged that the bathtub where Michaela's body had been found was removed during the three days that followed her death.
The police officer photographed the bath in the hotel room on the day of Michaela's death, January 10, 2011.
When he took pictures of a reconstruction with Mr Treebhoowoon on January 13, he photographed the accused man pointing at a concrete hole where the bath had previously been installed. He confirmed that the police cordon had still been in place that day.
The revelation comes after questioning of the same photographer on Wednesday, which revealed that the packet of biscuits that Michaela had returned to her room to collect had also been interfered with.
Mr Jeetwooth said the biscuits had been in a partially opened drawer on the day of her death but had been on a table top in pictures taken during a reconstruction two days later.