Thursday 22 February 2018

Tough questions for star witness after he places accused at scene

Raj Theekoy, the prosecution's star witness in the Michaela McAreavey murder trial, and his wife, Manisha, outside the Mauritian Supreme Court yesterday
Raj Theekoy, the prosecution's star witness in the Michaela McAreavey murder trial, and his wife, Manisha, outside the Mauritian Supreme Court yesterday

Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

THE star witness in the Michaela McAreavey trial faced intense questioning yesterday after earlier placing two hotel workers accused of her murder at the scene.

Raj Theekoy was a cleaner at the Legends resort in Mauritius where Michaela had been staying with her husband John when she was strangled to death.

Hotel workers Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea are accused of attempting to steal from the McAreaveys' room before killing Michaela when she interrupted them.

Mr Theekoy told the court yesterday he heard her scream, and then saw the accused men in the vicinity of Michaela's room shortly afterwards.

However, defending barrister Rama Valayden wasted little time in attacking Mr Theekoy's version of events.

He asked about mysterious hotel key card records showing how he re-entered rooms he had previously cleaned. Mr Theekoy said he didn't remember why he had returned to the rooms. He also admitted he had not returned his card that day as per hotel rules.

And the lawyer asked about a phone call he made to his wife two minutes after he says he heard the screams, with Mr Theekoy claiming he did not discuss it with his wife.

Prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan started proceedings by explaining how Mr Theekoy had been granted full immunity if he "promised to speak the truth".

Mr Theekoy said on the day Michaela was killed he saw a cleaning trolley bearing Mr Treebhoowoon's name outside her room, 1025, at 2.45pm.

He said: "When I was walking away I started hearing the voice of a woman screaming in pain."

Twitching

He said he heard her cry, "Ah!" three times. "Then I got scared. I thought it could be a husband and wife having a fight," he said.

He went to room 1021 to hide and also "to see who was coming out of room 1025". He claimed he saw the two defendants walking from the direction of the room. He said Mr Treebhoowoon's face was wet and that both he and Mr Moneea looked "worried".

He later asked Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea what had happened and Mr Moneea threatened him, saying: "If you say anything about this, I'll drag you into the case."

Mr Manrakhan asked him: "What did you understand by this?," with the witness responding: "That he killed the woman in room 1025."

He said that when he spoke to his family the following day, "I got courage and decided to speak the truth".

Beginning his cross-examination, Mr Valayden held up a copy of records of Mr Theekoy's magnetic key card usage on the January 10, 2011. He listed four rooms and said the records showed he entered the rooms in the morning, as the witness had told the court earlier, to clean them. But he pointed out that the key card records showed that he re-entered each of the rooms later in the day.

Asking him why, Mr Theekoy replied: "I can't remember."

He later put it to Mr Theekoy that at the time Legends staff did not write their names on their trolleys as he had earlier claimed and the witness admitted that was the case. Mr Theekoy was visibly nervous during the cross-examination, twitching his leg throughout. He was told his phone was used to call his wife at 14.47 on the day of Michaela's death, while he says he was hiding in a nearby room.

Mr Valayden asked: "Did you tell her what you saw?" and the witness responded "no". The lawyer closed his questioning saying, "You said Avinash and Sandip killed her. How did you know?"

"I thought they killed her," Mr Theekoy replied.

"You said it or the police told you to say it?" Mr Valayden pressed.

Mr Theekoy replied: "I said it."

His cross-examination continues today.

Irish Independent

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