One of the men charged with murdering Michaela McAreavey alleges that police tried to suffocate him with a towel and held his head in a bucket of water while he was interrogated, a court in Mauritius heard today.
Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, confessed to police about his involvement in strangling the daughter of Tyrone football boss Mickey Harte, but now insists he was forced to sign the statement.
His lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry repeated a complaint his client made to court authorities in the days after the death in January last year.
The accused said he was beaten in the face and on the heels.
Reading his client’s statement, Mr Teeluckdharry said: “I was made to suffocate in a towel.”
He said on one occasion officers filled a bucket of water.
“I was on a chair, I was gripped by the neck and placed in that pail of water,” read his lawyer.
Treebhoowoon, 30, and co-accused Sandip Moneea, 42, deny murdering the 27-year-old teacher on her honeymoon at the Legends Hotel.
The court heard that Treebhoowoon was not wearing an anti-contamination suit when he was taken to the crime scene for a reconstruction three days after the murder.
Police officers who attended the exercise in room 1025 of the Legends Hotel were also not in protective clothing, a police photographer told the island’s Supreme Court.
Harris Jeewooth, a crime scene photographer, was asked by defence counsel Rama Valayden, representing Moneea, to confirm whether anti-contamination measures were taken.
Mr Valayden said: “All witnesses and police officers who were called during your presence during the reconstruction – did they wear any protective clothes to prevent contamination?”
The officer replied: “No my lord.”
The case against hotel room attendant Treebhoowoon, from Plaine des Roches, and floor supervisor Moneea, from Petit Raffray, is expected to last two to three weeks.
The trial in the old French colonial court building is one the most high-profile criminal cases held on the island.
A jury of six men and three women is hearing the case and judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah is presiding.
Almost 50 witnesses are listed to give evidence.
Though most Mauritians speak French Creole as their first tongue, court proceedings are being heard in English.
Mrs McAreavey, from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was the only daughter of Harte, the GAA boss who has steered his native county to three All Ireland championships.
The Legends Hotel, which has since been renamed the Lux Hotel, is in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, close to Mauritius’s Grand Bay.
Mrs McAreavey taught religious education and the Irish language at St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.
Her Requiem Mass was held close to her family home at St Malachy’s chapel in Ballymacilroy – the same church in which she had married a fortnight before she was killed.
Then-president Mary McAleese was among dignitaries at a funeral attended by more than 3,000 people, as the newlywed was buried in her wedding dress.
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