Friday 27 April 2018

Star witness in Michaela McAreavey trial 'was joking with accused after her death'

Raj Theekoy
Raj Theekoy

Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

THE Michaela McAreavey murder trial has heard how the prosecution's 'star witness' was "drinking tea" and "joking" with one of the men accused of killing her on the afternoon of the tragic honeymooner's death.

Defence lawyers confronted former hotel worker Raj Theekoy with claims that he went on a tea break with Avinash Treebhoowoon just an hour after he claims he heard Michaela screaming and saw the defendant emerge from her room.

Mr Theekoy initially claimed he couldn't remember where he had been sitting in the hotel canteen that afternoon and argued he had not been drinking tea.

Closing his questioning, defending barrister, Rama Valayden, accused the witness of lying in court, to which Mr Theekoy replied: "Whatever I have seen or heard is the same as what I have told the court."

Mr Treebhoowoon and his former colleague, Sandip Moneea, are both accused of the murder of the honeymooner in Mauritius last January.

Mr Theekoy was originally charged in connection with Michaela's death because he had not come to her aid after hearing the screams but he has been granted immunity in return for his testimony.

Mr Valayden resumed his questioning of Mr Theekoy in Creole, asking why in his first statement to police he had not mentioned seeing Mr Moneea.

He said he only remembered seeing Mr Moneea near Michaela's room after he did a reconstruction with police three days after her death.

Mr Valayden asked why he had denied going to the canteen an hour after he heard her screams. Mr Theekoy said he couldn't remember, then admitted doing so after Mr Valayden produced CCTV stills showing some of his movements.

Mr Theekoy could not remember where he sat in the canteen. Mr Valayden said: "I tell you that you were beside accused number one (Mr Treebhoowoon) and bought tea and sugar for him. You drank tea and were joking to him about accused number two (Mr Moneea) -- that he was just married and he had to go home early,"

Saying he couldn't fully remember, Mr Theekoy said: "I don't drink tea, I was just sitting there."

Referred by the other defence lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, to a statement he made at a previous court inquiry when he said he had been in the canteen that morning, again drinking tea, he replied: "I wanted to say I went to drink juice but I said tea to the court."

This prompted laughter in court leading Claire McAreavey to turn to those chuckling and snap "show some respect".

Mr Teeluckdharry moved on to Mr Theekoy's departure from his previous job as a hotel cleaner. The witness had explained how he resigned from the Marina Hotel after he was caught with a bottle of wine hidden in his bag but had claimed he didn't know how it got there.

He admitted he was faced with the choice of resigning or facing the police.

Re-examining his witness, prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan asked him about a call he made to his wife while he was hiding near Michaela's room after hearing a woman screaming.

Pain

Mr Theekoy had told the court on Monday that he had not discussed the cries of pain with his wife, despite claiming he heard them just two minutes before the phone call. Yesterday he explained the call, saying he was asking about his son who was "unwell" that day.

In other testimony yesterday, a local doctor Vamachandra Sunasee told how he responded to an emergency call from Legends Hotel on the afternoon of Michaela's death and found that she was already dead when he got there. He noted the injuries on her neck and said "I noticed no breathing movement", adding "her pupils were dilated and fixed".

Later Legends Hotel restaurant supervisor Mark L'Olive told the court how he took an order for tea from John and Michaela on the day of her death, the last time the couple were seen together.

He said: "It took three minutes for the tea to be ready and when I returned the wife was not there."

After "15 minutes max", John asked for the bill and left.

Irish Independent

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