Thursday 18 January 2018

Michaela murder: why there was never enough evidence

Top lawyer admits lack of scientific proof was always a major concern

Avinash Treebhoowoon and wife Reshma (top left) at home yesterday. Sandip and Rekha Moneea (bottom left) at their home in Mauritius yesterday and Dick Ng Sui Wa (centre): lawyer fears case is 'at an end' and John McAreavey (right) leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius after the verdict. Photo: STEVE HUMPHREYS
John McAreavey leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius after the verdict. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sandip Moneea celebrates with his wife after being found not guilty of murdering Michaela McAreavey
Reshma Treebhoowoon (partially obscured) embraces her husband Avinash Treebhoowoon, outside the Supreme Court in Port Louis. Photo: PA
Not guilty: Avinash Treebhoowoon celebrates with his wife after his acquittal
Defence barrister Rama Valayden speaking after the Verdict was announced
Family and friends of the accused celebrate after the Verdict was announced
Defence barrister Sanjeev Teelucktharry is held aloft by supporters of the accused outside the courtroom in Mauritius

Colm Kelpie, Eimear Ni Bhraonain, and Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

THERE was never any solid evidence linking the death of Michaela McAreavey with the two accused.

A top lawyer for the Mc- Areaveys last night admitted that he was always concerned at the lack of scientific evidence.

The frank admission was made as broken-hearted John McAreavey boarded a flight home after an eight-week ordeal on the island of Mauritius. Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has learned that two men acquitted of killing the tragic honeymooner have been told they can return to their jobs at the former Legends Hotel.

The offer came as the two men enjoyed their first day of freedom for 18 months, after being arrested on suspicion of murder. But as the dust settled on a dramatic ‘not guilty’ verdict, the true extent emerged of how little solid police work had been done to identify the true killer.

There were gaping holes in the way evidence was gathered, including:

- No forensic evidence was found linking the two accused men to the crime.

- The crime scene was contaminated as it was trampled over by hotel guests and police.

- Potential witnesses, such as other guests, were not interviewed and four fingerprints found in the room were never traced.

- The prosecution case rested on witness testimony from one man who had been accused, but was subsequently given immunity.

- A confession by one of the suspects was allegedly extracted under torture.

UK forensic experts Cellmark did not find any DNA from the two men at the murder scene.

But the forensic scientist who analysed the scene, Susan Woodroffe, stated in her report that the DNA of former hotel worker Dassen Narayanen was found in the room.

Mr Narayanen had a conspiracy to commit murder charge dropped against him by police.

DNA expert Dr Stephen Donoghue, who holds a Phd in molecular pathology, last night said the detection of DNA at a crime scene would greatly depend on how thoroughly samples were collected by the police.

"It depends on how much testing is done. The DNA is only as good as the sampling," he told the Irish Independent.

He said it would be theoretically possible to enter or exit a crime scene without leaving traceable DNA.

"It really depends on if they went in with gloves -- but even at that, you would get hair. Again it depends on the sampling."

He said experts would have examined the fingernails of Michaela to see if there was any DNA that got caught underneath during the struggle.

But he said that could have been washed off by the water in the bathtub where her body was found.

Dr Donoghue has reviewed cases for the Irish Innocence Project based at Dublin's Griffith College, which uses DNA evidence to examine cases where there are claims of wrongful conviction.

And he said prosecutions still did get taken in the absence of DNA evidence -- although strong evidence of other types would be required.

But the lawyer for John McAreavey revealed yesterday that he believes Michaela's husband will "never get justice".

Dick Ng Sui Wa told the Irish Independent yesterday that the "absence of scientific evidence was a worry" in the investigation.

When asked if he thought it was the "end of the road" in terms of finding Michaela's killer, he replied: "I think so. Sadly."

He also said that "only two persons were incriminated" and "they were released".

The McAreavey and Harte families are despondent as they contemplate the police's failure to identify the true killer, and the bleak prospects for any future breakthrough in the case. They released a short statement asking for privacy yesterday.

Irish Independent

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