Thursday 22 February 2018

Feeble prosecution case fell to pieces before jury's eyes

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE jury in the Michaela McAreavey murder trial threw out the prosecution's case against the two hotel workers accused of her murder in spectacular style, delivering unanimous "not guilty" verdicts for both men.

On hearing the verdict, a downcast state prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan yesterday told the court: "My lord I have conducted this case to the best of my abilities."

But he wasn't given much to work with.

The prosecution case relied on two main pillars -- a disputed "confession" by hotel cleaner Avinash Treebhoowoon and circumstantial evidence implicating his supervisor Sandip Moneea provided by a "star witness".

That witness, hotel worker Raj Theekoy was anything but stellar and his testimony was picked apart by defence lawyers.

Add to that a shambolic police investigation, a prosecution witnesses who provided an alibi for one of the accused men and complete lack of any forensic evidence against the two and it's not difficult to see how the prosecution crumbled over the last eight weeks.

Mr Treebhoowoon always maintained that his "confession" was extracted by torture and threats by the police.

In the statement he says he signed under duress he admits to attempting to steal form the McAreavey's Legends Hotel room with Mr Moneea when they were interrupted by Michaela.

It also states that it was Mr Moneea who strangled Michaela so for both men to be prosecuted, the jury would have had to believe the confession.

The unanimous not guilty verdict is a clear indication that they did not after lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry made a sport of making senior officers of the Major Crime Investigation Team appear to be ruthless torturers.

He outlined a litany of alleged abuses that had been perpetrated on his client Mr Treebhoowoon to extract his confession including simulated drowning, beatings to the soles of his feet and threats at gun point.

Star witness Mr Theekoy had claimed that he saw the two accused men walking from the direction of Michaela's room after hearing a woman scream from the corridor.

His testimony was savaged by defence lawyer Rama Valayden who branded Mr Theekoy a liar and said he had found "75 contradictions" in his evidence.

He also made much of the fact that Mr Theekoy was initially arrested in connection with Michaela's murder but was granted immunity from prosecution after he agreed to testify against Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea.

Another prosecution witness, hotel cleaner Govinden Samynaden, actually began testifying on behalf of Mr Moneea when he took to the witness box.

Colleague

This led defence lawyers to goad Mr Manrakhan that he had ended up cross-examining his own witness.

Mr Samynaden provided his former colleague with an alibi saying that he had been cleaning floors in a different room with Mr Moneea at the time of Michaela's murder.

Mr Valayden and his defence colleague Sanjeev Teeluckdharry kept up a relentless assault on all aspects of the police investigation during the course of the trial.

Of particular importance was the testimony of British forensic expert Susan Woodroffe who confirmed that she had found no trace of DNA from the accused men on swab samples from Michaela's body.

Police found no fingerprints linking the two men to the crime scene.

It is difficult to see how such a case could make it into court, let alone last eight weeks.

Irish Independent

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