Michaela murder: No finger print tests on purse, says police officer
NO fingerprint tests were carried out on a purse found in the room Michaela McAreavey was murdered in during an alleged botched burglary, a police officer has told a court in Mauritius.
Hotel worker Avinash Treebhoowoon signed a confession admitting the crime in which he claimed he was rifling through a purse when the honeymooner unexpectedly returned to her room in the luxury Legends Hotel on the holiday island.
Treebhoowoon, 31, had since insisted the statement was beaten out of him and he and fellow Legends employee Sandip Moneea, 42, deny murdering the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football boss Mickey Harte last January.
Today, their trial heard that a black purse found on the dresser of the room - 1025 - was not dusted for prints.
Police Sergeant Mohammad Dhonye made the revelation at the Supreme Court in Port Louis under cross-examination by a lawyer for Moneea, Rama Valayden.
"Was the black purse found on the dresser table fingerprinted?" the barrister asked.
"No, my lord," Mr Dhonye replied.
Day 14 of the high-profile case began with the announcement that Mrs McAreavey's widower John would not be returning to the witness box to give further evidence.
The prosecution had been considering whether to officially apply for his recall after he indicated he had made an error during his testimony.
The trial also heard from a police officer who says he heard Treebhoowoon tell his father "forget your son now, I have made a mistake" when he visited him at a police station days after the murder.
Sergeant Mohammad Bhugaloo rejected a claim by the defendant's lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry that his client was referring to a family fall-out, not Mrs McAreavey's death.
Another officer who probed a complaint of police brutality lodged by Treebhoowoon's former barrister Ravi Rutnah also took the stand, as did a room service attendant at Legends who claimed he saw both accused in the vicinity of room 1025 around 20 minutes before the murder allegedly happened.
In an unusual episode, proceedings were halted for half an hour after the judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah ordered police to search those in the public gallery to identify a phone that was causing interference to the broadcasting system.
He threatened any future offenders with a seven-day stint in prison.
Earlier, Mr Dhonye insisted many items and surfaces in the room where Mrs McAreavey was found strangled in the bathtub were tested.
"We tested on places likely to be touched," he told the judge. "Not the whole room but where people were likely to touch."
In the alleged confession, Treebhoowoon said he spotted a purse on the dresser with a number of 100 and 200 Mauritian rupee notes (approx £2.20 and £4.40) sticking out and urged Moneea that they should take some and spilt it between them.
Mr Valayden has previously claimed in court that four fingerprints not belonging to the accused or the McAreaveys were found in the room.
Mr Dhonye confirmed that four prints were retrieved at the scene - one on a pair of sunglasses, two on the door to the corridor and one on a curtain dividing the bathroom from the bedroom.
The officer said he found two blood stains on the bathroom floor and a mark on the bedsheets that appeared to be a foot print.
Mr Teeluckdharry said 39 items were secured by police from the room after the murder, including a laptop, mobile phones and a box of sedative pills.
"Can you tell me why all 39 items where not sent for DNA analysis?" he challenged the officer.
"I cannot say that, it was not me who decides, that's higher quarters, superior officers," Mr Dhonye responded.
Yesterday, both Mr Teeluckdharry and Mr Valayden indicated they would have objected to any attempt to recall Mr McAreavey to the stand.
The prosecution claims his wife was murdered when she returned to the room to fetch some biscuits and found the defendants stealing.
In emotional evidence on Wednesday, Mr McAreavey said he offered to get the biscuits for her but she told him not to worry because he had done it for her the night before.
But he was challenged by Mr Valayden, who said electronic readings of entries to the room for the evening concerned did not tally with his account.
Yesterday, Mr McAreavey's lawyer Dick Ng Sui Wa said his client wanted to inform the court that he had got the date wrong and the incident happened two days before the January 10 murder.
Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan told the court this morning he would not be making an application to officially recall him to change his evidence.
"There will be no motion to have him recalled, in view of the stand taken by the defence," he said.
Mr McAreavey also told the court he entered room 1025 to find his wife lying in an almost full bathtub with cold water gushing from the tap.
Police corporal Louis Sylvio Jean Baptiste took the stand today to detail tests he had carried out on the same make of bath to ascertain how long it took to fill up.
He confirmed that his result was 23 minutes and 26 seconds.
Mr Valayden asked if the bath had then started to overflow.
The witness said the water went down the overflow valve instead. "It did not go over," he added.
Earlier, former Legends room service attendant Ravindradeo Seetohul told the jury of six men and three woman that he was working in rooms 1123 and 1125 above 1025 in the period before the murder, which is alleged to have happened at about 2.45pm.
He said he saw Treebhoowoon in room 1025 cleaning from about 2.10pm to 2.25pm on the day. He said he also saw him talking to security guard Dassen Naraynen at the door of the room during this period.
Naraynen was originally arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but is now facing a provisional charge of conspiracy to commit larceny in connection with the McAreavey case.
Mr Seetohul said he was walking away from the area at about 2.25pm when Moneea passed him walking in the general direction of room 1025.
"I didn't see exactly where he was going," he added.
But Mr Valayden put it to the witness that card readings of his room entry times did not quite match his own timekeeping on his work sheet.
Mr Seetohul insisted his timings were correct.
But he revealed that he told police that the times did not correspond.
"The police told me it was not important," he said, prompting laughter in the public gallery of court five.
Later, when Mr Bhugaloo gave his testimony, he told the court that no test was carried out to check if Mr Seetohul's watch was accurate.
But the officer faced more rigorous questioning on his claim that he overheard a conversation Treebhoowoon had with his father on the day he signed the confession.
He said the accused told him "forget your son now, I have made a mistake" and then burst into tears.
His father Sooryadev Treebhoowoon signed a police diary account of the discussion.
But Mr Teeluckdharry put it to the officer that his client was talking about a fight he had with his father before Christmas when he walked out of the family home.
The lawyer said Treebhoowoon actually said: "Pa, don't forget your son. I made a mistake when I left home and went away. I ask you for forgiveness. I want to return home."
Mr Bhugaloo said that was not what the exchange was about. "It was pertaining to the relevant case," he insisted.
Police Sergeant Swaraj Pudaruth of Mauritius's Police Complaints Investigation Bureau also gave evidence to the trial.
He said he had visited Treebhoowoon in prison to take a statement in regard to a complaint by Mr Rutnah about his alleged treatment when he visited his client in custody.
Mr Pudaruth explained that he was not specifically probing claims that the defendant had been beaten by police, but rather the allegations made by Mr Rutnah. When asked by the judge if an inquiry was conducted into Treebhoowoon's claims, he answered: "I'm not aware."
The officer said, during the interview in prison, the accused started to outline what happened in the days after his arrest, including some claims about the police's actions, but then stopped and said he would not make a statement without his lawyer.
Mr Manrakhan asked: "Were you surprised when he stopped?"
The officer replied: "Of course my lord."