MANAGEMENT at the hotel where Michaela McAreavey was murdered failed to co-operate properly with police and were more concerned with damage to its reputation than catching the killer, a court in Mauritius has heard.
In a scathing attack on an alleged “dirty game” played by the island’s Legends Hotel, a police chief claimed the honeymooner’s husband was initially arrested as a suspect because information that would have eliminated him from inquires was withheld from detectives.
Giving evidence at the trial of the two former Legends employees accused of the crime, Assistant Commissioner of Police Yoosoof Soopun further alleged that management provided material to “the defence” which it should have given to police.
Former Legends room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon, 31, and floor supervisor Sandip Moneea, 42, deny murdering the 27-year-old Ballygawley woman inside her deluxe room last January.
The prosecution claim they attacked her when she walked in and caught them stealing. Mr Soopun, who led the murder investigation, repeatedly criticised the hotel during a day on the witness stand in the Supreme Court in Port Louis.
At one point he told judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah, “Here I want to state my lord that the hotel management, as I said from the very beginning there was much concern to protect the reputation of the hotel rather than to discover who has killed the deceased.
“This is why my lord several important things have never been disclosed to the police.”
On the 16th day of the high-profile case Mr Soopun, who is in charge of the police’s major crime investigation team (MCIT), rejected a claim by Treebhoowoon that he threatened him with a revolver and told him he would die if he did not confess.
It also emerged that another hotel employee originally arrested over the crime and then released is now suing the police and Mauritian state over his treatment.
Testifying as a prosecution witness, Mr Soopun claimed one of the first instances of the hotel’s unco-operative stance was when officers were not given records of entries to room 1025 where the newlywed was found.
Mr Soopun said if that data had been available to officers at the outset then John McAreavey would never have been detained.
The bereaved widower was handcuffed and left alone in a police station for hours in the wake of his wife’s death.
Mr Soopun said the reading from the electronic door entry system was handed over only after “persistent requests”.
‘A DIRTY GAME’
“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.
“Then it was clear, my lord, that Mr John McAreavey must be disregarded as a suspect.”
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.