herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Michaela trial told 'confession faked by police'

POLICE fabricated a confession made by one of the two hotel workers accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius and then forced him to sign it, his trial was told.

The senior officer who led the investigation faced allegations he meshed together a non-incriminating statement made by Avinash Treebhoowoon with claims of a suspect-turned-witness before further embellishing the false account.

But chief inspector Luciano Gerard insisted the hotel cleaner had voluntarily signed his own version of events on January 13 last year -- three days after the crime.



strangled

Treebhoowoon's lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry claimed Mr Gerard had taken parts of a statement made by his client two days earlier and added sections of the account provided by a fellow employee at the Legends Hotel where the murder happened, Raj Theekoy.

Mr Gerard rejected any claim that the statement was obtained inappropriately and highlighted that the accused had agreed to take part in a reconstruction at Legends after signing it.

"He gave his statement voluntarily and he voluntarily participated in the reconstruction exercise where there were many press people present," he said.

In the statement, Treebhoowoon claims he and co-accused Sandip Moneea murdered the Co Tyrone teacher when she walked in on them stealing from her room.

Mr Theekoy claimed he heard cries from the room where she was found strangled and then saw Treebhoowoon and Moneea exit. He was originally charged with conspiracy to murder, but that case has now been dropped and he is set to appear as a prosecution witness.

Mr Teeluckdharry also claimed that police had breached Treebhoowoon's constitutional right by interrogating him without a lawyer.

Police say Treebhoowoon first admitted the crime during police interview on January 12 when his counsel was absent.

Mr Gerard of the major crime investigation team (MCIT) confirmed his then barrister -- Ravi Rutnah -- was not there but insisted he informed him of his right to legal representation.

Mr Teeluckdharry accused the officer of overriding his client's rights.

"You chose to breach the accused's constitutional, fundamental human right to counsel as provided by article 5 of our constitution," he said.

Treebhoowoon signed a full confession statement the next day but Mr Teeluckdharry claimed lawyers were not allowed a private consultation with the suspect. The defendant insists the confession was beaten out of him.

Mr Rutnah withdrew from the case on Wednesday after accusing Mr Gerard of attacking his professional integrity.

He said he was late arriving for a meeting with his client on January 12 and also shared food, fried rice, in a convivial atmosphere with police officers.

Yesterday Mr Teeluckdharry claimed Mr Rutnah was in fact subjected to threatening behaviour by Mr Gerard and other officers when he arrived on January 13 as his client was about to be interviewed.



browbeating

"You and other officers in MCIT became furious and angry," Mr Teeluckdharry told the court in St Louis.

"You were joined by other officers, you started threatening counsel that you and your men would arrest him for obstructing the police inquiry, you further shouted and started browbeating him."

He added: "All of you threatened and told him that he's not allowed to advise his client at all, he is only allowed to remain seated in the same room and to keep silent throughout the recording."

hnews@herald.ie

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