Saturday 24 February 2018

'We will take away your wife and send her to live with John in Ireland'

Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

ONE of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey broke down and begged for mercy after torture and threats by the police, the Mauritian Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Avinash Treebhoowoon, who allegedly suffered days of beatings and a simulated drowning that led the accused man to "vomit blood", was said to have cracked after threats were made against his wife and family.

The court heard how he fell to his knees and begged for pity when he was told by a senior police officer that his wife Reshma would be sent to Ireland with Michaela's grieving husband John, to replace his murdered bride. The next day he confessed to involvement in Michaela's murder.

Confession

He admitted to grabbing the honeymooner, while co-accused Sandip Moneea strangled her, after she interrupted them stealing from her room in Legends Hotel where they both worked.

The police officer who took the confession statement, Chief Inspector Luciano Gerard, was yesterday back for cross-examination by defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry.

CI Gerard smiled as his alleged threats were relayed in court by the lawyer who said he had shouted at Mr Treebhoowoon: "This man, his wife is dead. He will need a woman to live with.

"That is why we will take away your wife and get her a passport to send her to Ireland, to live with the husband.

"We will do this," he added, saying: "The government is in our hands and no one can touch us." Asked if these had been his words, CI Gerard replied "never, my lord", as he had to all the accusations levelled at him yesterday.

Mr Teeluckdharry continued: "My client that day fell at your feet and implored you for pity."

CI Gerard responded: "I say again my lord, this is false and ridiculous."

On Wednesday he gave testimony on Mr Treebhoowoon's confession, in which he allegedly admitted "because she saw us we had to kill her".

Yesterday it was put to CI Gerard that he had personally beaten Mr Treebhoowoon and threatened his family.

Asked why there were no video tapes of Mr Treebhoowoon's interrogations, CI Gerard said that the officer responsible for the camera was posted at another station.

Mr Treebhoowoon's allegations included an incident where he was told to undress, was placed on a table and beaten on the soles of his feet with a PVC pipe.

He also said he was struck so hard on his left ear that he has been left partially deaf.

Superintendent Yusuf Soopun, the head of the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), was accused of slapping Mr Treebhoowoon three times and threatening him with a revolver.

CI Gerard said: "I don't see Supt Soopun doing such a thing."

Mr Treebhoowoon stared directly at his alleged tormentor for most of the day as he gave his testimony just feet away from him in the witness box.

His lawyer described another incident on the night where MCIT officers placed a bucket of water in front of Mr Treebhoowoon on the night of January 12, 2011.

Mr Teeluckdharry said: "An officer plunged his head in the water and he was made to suffocate. He was made to feel at the mercy of the MCIT officers for a single breath of air."

CI Gerard denied the allegations but the defence lawyer added: "He started to suffocate and was vomiting blood." The police chief said: "This is totally false."

Mr Teeluckdharry continued outlining how Mr Treebhoowoon complained of police brutality at his first court appearance on January 12, 2011.

He claimed CI Gerard's response that evening to the complaint was to tell his client: "You said you were beaten? That was no beating, it was just a preview."

He said he cursed at his client and said to another officer: "take a van, get his mother and father and lock them all up."

The defence team's cross-examination of the witness continues today.

Irish Independent

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