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Murder accused Avinash Treebhoowoon at court today. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Michaela McAreavey

Defence counsel withdraws from Michaela McAreavey murder trial

The lawyer says he wants to testify as a defence witness after claims made in court today.

THERE WAS A MAJOR twist in the trial of two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius when one of the defence lawyers announced his withdrawal from the case.

Informing the judge of his decision, Ravi Rutnah cited ethical reasons following the statement of chief inspector Gerard Luciano, one of the leading investigators in this case, earlier in today’s hearing.

He added that he wanted to testify as a witness in the trial to respond to allegations made by police against him and his client.

Earlier, chief inspector Gerard Luciano of the Major Crimes Investigation Team strongly denied all allegations of police brutality made the defendant Avinash Treebhoowoon. Luciano said the claims were “false and unfounded”.

He further added that no suspect arrested in connection with the murder investigation was a victim of police brutality. The officer also said that Treebhoowoon had voluntarily signed a confession; in a later statement, Treebhoowoon alleged that he was forced to confess and was the victim of police brutality.

Statement

The chief inspector also read Treebhoowoon’s statement and confession recorded on 13 January. The officer described how Treebhoowoon entered the McAreavey’s room. He said he had an earlier conversation with Michaela’s husband John McAreavey who told him to “come back in five minutes” to clean the hotel room.

When he started to clean the room, the accused saw a few notes coming out of a purse on the
table. He went out and assured that no one was watching. When he was sure it was safe, he moved to grab the purse.

Michaela McAreavey had entered the room and questioned what Treebhoowoon was doing with her wallet. The statement read:

The young woman wanted to leave the room when I knocked her and she fell. Sandip Mooneea drove at her and pressed her neck until she stopped moving. We then placed her in the bathtub and open the water to erase any trace.

The accused said in the statement that Sandeep Moonea told him that if they did not kill her, they would be denounced:

If she had not seen me, I would not have killed her. I would just have taken her money.

I deeply regret what happened and present my apologies to her family.

According to CI Gerard, Treebhoowoon fully collaborated with the police to show the crime scene. He had at all times been cautioned about his rights, the officer said. Avinash Treebhoowoon is said to have initially denied all involvement in this case but changed his mind when police made him aware of the statement of his colleague Raj Teekoye, incriminating him.

CI Gerard said after that accused asked to give his statement in the presence of his counsel, Ravi Rutnah. The lawyer was called on the 13th January at 6.50pm, but responded he was busy and would come on the next day. On being informed later that his client had confessed, he called at around 8.30pm.

The police officer then said that accused was tired and asked to give his statement on the next say.

The police the shared refreshments with the suspects and CI Gerard claimed that he gave his part of meal to Counsel Rutnah.

It seems that it is this allegation that the lawyer wants to challenge by testifying and during the evening court session today, Rutnah requested his withdrawl as counsel to testify as a witness.

“It’s a professional decision that I made in the interest of justice. I will testify to tell the whole truth about what happened [after Treebhoowoon's arrest]. I am the only one who knows the whole truth, “he said.

After that Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, leading counsel for Treebhoowoon, asked the judge to be allowed to bring a new list of additional witness including the chairman of the Bar Council. The prosecution counsel said he must discuss this with the DPP before giving his opinion.

The judge then decided to adjourn the hearings until tomorrow.

Families issue statement over “attempt to denigrate the memory of Michaela” >

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Author
Ajai Daby in Mauritius