herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Hotel chiefs in Mauritius played dirty game - police

TRIAL: John McAreavey arrested 'because records withheld'

A DIRTY game played by management at the luxury hotel where Michaela McAreavey was murdered led to her husband being arrested as a suspect, a senior police chief has told a court in Mauritius.

Giving evidence at the trial of two ex-employees of the Legends Hotel who are accused of strangling Michaela, one of the island's top officers criticised security staff for not immediately providing police with records of entries to the room where the newlywed was found.

Yoosoof Soopun said if that information had been available to officers at the outset then John McAreavey would never have been detained in the aftermath of the crime last January.

He was handcuffed and left alone in a police station for hours in the wake of his wife's death.

Former Legends staff members Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea are on trial for murdering the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte. They deny the charge.

Mr Soopun told the Supreme Court in Port Louis that a reading from the electronic door entry system was not given to police on their arrival at the hotel and only handed over after "persistent requests".

"I just want to state that hotel management, particularly the chief security officer Mr (Mohammad) Imrit, has played a dirty game with the police," he said.

"Having that information earlier to the police, there's no doubt the poor Mr John McAreavey would not have been taken to Piton police station and treated as a suspect by Piton CID.

"It was only on our persistent requests, my lord, that we obtained the reading and came to know that a magnetic card -- JMK supervisor two -- has been used at 1442 hours, some two minutes before the lady, the deceased Mrs McAreavey, had accessed the room.

Astonished

"Then it was clear, my lord, that Mr John McAreavey must be disregarded as a suspect."

The prosecution claim Treebhoowoon (31) and Moneea (42) murdered the 27-year-old teacher when she interrupted them stealing from her room.

Mr Soopun said he was "astonished" to find Mr McAreavey handcuffed in the police station later that night.

"He was crying and completely broken," he added.

He said he immediately gave an order for him to be released.

When John McAreavey returned to the hotel later that night, a police or sentry went with him to provide security.

In other evidence, Mr Soopun said he first became suspicious of Moneea when he incorrectly filled out a form of his day's activities the day after Michaela's body was found.

He claimed that the wrong information was put on the form in relation to cleaning activities by room attendants. He believed Moneea did this in a bid to protect his co-accused Treebhoowoon. Mr Soopun was asked about allegations of police brutality -- again he denied this occurred and described such accusations as false.

Mr McAreavey and other family members were not present in court as the police chief levelled the claims against the hotel.

hnews@herald.ie

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