Hotel worker acquitted of Michaela McAreavey murder charged with theft of her hotel room key

Sandeep Mooneea (52) was arrested and questioned by police yesterday

Catherine Fegan

A hotel worker previously acquitted of murdering Michaela McAreavey is due before a court in Mauritius facing charges related to an alleged plot to steal from the hotel room where she was killed.

Sandeep Mooneea (52) was arrested and questioned by police on the Indian Ocean island yesterday. His lawyer Rama Valayden said his client had been implicated in a statement given to police last month by Dassen Narayanen, a former security guard at the hotel where Ms McAreavey was murdered in 2011.

“Sandip Mooneea will appear before a court in Mapou (today) to be charged,” Mr Valayden said.

“It’s a charge of conspiring to steal an electronic key card in order to steal money from guest hotel rooms. This information is based on a new statement given to police by Dassen Narayanen. There is no new evidence.”

Mr Valayden said he would be attending court today to ask that the charges against his client be struck out. He said Mr Mooneea had been left “devastated” by his re-arrest more than a decade after he was acquitted of murdering Ms McAreavey.

“He absolutely denies the charges,” he said.

“It is extremely sad to see history repeat itself here. I have sent letters to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to what I believe will be a second miscarriage of justice.”

In March of this year, Dassen Narayanen was remanded in custody charged with conspiring to commit larceny with another hotel employee by stealing a magnetic key card to gain access to the room occupied by Michaela McAreavey and her husband .

A police officer who gave evidence at the 2012 supreme court trial told the court that Mr Narayanen was not one of the murderers but alleged he had provided the key card that opened the room as part of his role in a widespread racket to steal from guests. Traces of the security guard’s DNA were found on an unauthorised “dummy” magnetic card that was found in the hotel’s security office in the place where the actual staff card that opened the door of room 1025 should have been.

The card used to gain entry two minutes before Ms McAreavey went into her room has never been located.

A potential genetic match to Mr Narayanen was also found on a cupboard in the bathroom of 1025 that contained a safe. But a DNA expert said that it could have been a chance finding and wasn’t definite proof that he had touched it.

In subsequent media interviews, Mr Narayanen claimed police beat him and held a revolver to his head before making him sign a statement saying he gave the stolen master keycard to Sandip Mooneea early on January 10, 2011. A second statement, which he also said was fabricated, implicated another member of staff, ­Seenarain Mungroo.

Mr Mungroo was questioned and charged by police, but the charges were later dropped when it emerged that Narayanen had fabricated the story about him.

Ms McAreavey (27) was strangled in her room at the Legends Hotel in Mauritius on January 10, 2011.

The teacher, who had married husband John 10 days earlier, was allegedly attacked after she returned to her room alone and disturbed a burglary.

No one has been convicted of murdering the daughter of Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte. Mooneea and his co-accused in the 2012 murder trial, Avinash Treebhoowoon, worked as cleaners in the hotel at the time.