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‘No sign of injury’ on murder accused
A hotel worker who alleges he was beaten into confessing to the murder of honeymooner Michaela McAreavey has been challenged to explain why two doctors apparently found no sign of any injuries on him.
Avinash Treebhoowoon was accused of making up the claims of police brutality, even taking inspiration for his story from the movies, as he was cross examined by the prosecution in Mauritius’s Supreme Court.
The defendant and co-accused Sandip Moneea both deny murdering the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone gaelic football boss Mickey Harte at the island’s luxury Legends Hotel last January.
Both men worked at the exclusive beachside resort at the time and the prosecution claims they attacked the Irish language teacher when she caught them stealing in her room.
Treebhoowoon, 32, returned to the witness box to give evidence for a third straight day at the high profile case in Port Louis; his second facing cross examination from principal state counsel Mehdi Manrakhan.
Mrs McAreavey’s widower John, his father Brendan, sister Claire and brother-in-law Mark Harte watched as he testified in his native French Creole. The family members were helped by a local Mauritian who translated proceedings.
The defendant claims police forced him to sign a confession statement three days after the January 10 murder and that he had no knowledge of what it contained.
The prosecutor disputed this, insisting the document included correct facts the police could not have otherwise known and was littered with particular phrases favoured by Treebhoowoon.
The lawyer said the violent struggle with Mrs McAreavey outlined in the statement was consistent with the pattern of injuries sustained by the newlywed – yet he claimed police were not in possession of the post mortem report at that juncture.
Before analysing the statement in detail, Mr Manrakhan focused on the defendant’s claims of police torture.
Treebhoowoon has told the court he was subjected to various types of violence in the days after the murder.
He alleged he was beaten around the head, punched in the stomach, grabbed in the crotch, whipped on the soles of his feet and dunked in a bucket of water until he vomited blood.
Amid the claimed brutality, he made an official complaint to a magistrate at a court appearance and was duly sent to a hospital for examination.
Mr Manrakhan asked how could he explain that there were “no external injuries” found.
“When I was examined I didn’t take off my shirt,” replied the defendant.
The lawyer was sceptical.
“You were taken to the doctor and you didn’t take off your shirt?”
Treebhoowoon explained, “The doctor didn’t talk to me.”
Mr Manrakhan offered an alternative explanation.
“That means you never got beaten, there are no injuries, you agree with that? You would have got some marks on your body?”
The accused responded firmly, “I got beaten”
Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah, counting up the separate claims of abuse, also asked the defendant to account for the apparent anomaly.
“I am telling you, as per what you said, you got 13 slaps in all,” he said.
“You want me to believe that after 13 slaps your face was still normal?
“Amongst these slaps you got a big slap to the ear which hurt your ear. These slaps were given by big men – they didn’t caress you, they slapped you.”
At this point the judge showed his own hand to Treebhoowoon standing in the witness box before him.
“Just like mine, a big hand like mine,” he said.
Mr Manrakhan said two days later the accused was examined again, this time by a police doctor.
“He didn’t see any injuries on your body or your heels.” he said.
“I tell you why he couldn’t see anything, because you never got beaten.”
But Treebhoowoon maintained that he had been repeatedly assaulted.
Mr Manrakhan challenged him: “I tell you, you never got beaten, you lied.”
“No I got beaten,” insisted the defendant.
The prosecutor also questioned him about his claim that senior police officer Yoosoof Soopun threatened to kill him during interrogation, showing him a revolver he had in his sock.
Mr Manrakhan said assistant commissioner Soopun had already produced records in court to show he had not been officially issued with a firearm on the day.
“Did you see it in a film?” asked the lawyer.
The defendant rejected the suggestion.
Treebhoowoon had already told the court he was in room 1025, where Mrs McAreavey where was found dead, to clean it on the day of the crime but insisted he left at 2.35pm – ten minutes before the prosecution claim she was strangled.