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Michaela murder trial hears victim was strangled in violent struggle

The court heard evidence from the doctor who examined the 27-year-old Tyrone woman following her death at a hotel in Mauritius last year.

The Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius where the trial is taking place (File photo)
The Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius where the trial is taking place (File photo)
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

MICHAELA MCAREAVEY WAS strangled during a violent struggle in her hotel room that lasted around two minutes, a court in Mauritius heard today.

The chief forensic officer who carried out a post mortem on the Tyrone woman, Dr Sudesh Kumar Gungadin, formally excluded the contention that a belt or other object had been used in the murder.

The court heard evidence of the injuries McAreavey sustained during the short struggle before she died.

Two former room attendants who worked at the Legends hotel where the 27-year-old Irish teacher and her husband John McAreavey were on honeymoon are accused of the murder.

Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandeep Moonea have both denied the charges and have pleaded not guilty.

The medical examiner told the court that he performed an autopsy on the body of Michaela on the evening of 10 January 2011, the same day she was found dead in her room at the hotel.

In his report published on 9 February 2011, the doctor attributed the death of Michaela Harte to asphyxia due to compression of the neck. According to Dr Gungadin, the killer did not use any object to strangle the victim.

The witness was then questioned by Mehdi Manrakhan, lead counsel for the prosecution. The medical examiner also explained that the aggressor had compressed the victim’s neck for about a minute or two before she died, adding it was “not at all a case of ligature strangulation”.

The doctor also found bruises and abrasions on the victim’s neck, indicating that she had tried to defend herself by trying to push the hands of her attacker.

According to the coroner’s autopsy, Michaela also showed some head injuries resulting from a frontal impact with a solid object. ”It is probable that she has received a blow to the head or her head knocked against the floor on falling,” said the coroner.

Manrakhan then confronted the witness with the testimony of the main accused, Avinash Treebhoowoon. The accused explained in his confession that he took the victim by the feet while the other accused,  Sandip Moneea, was strangling her.

However, according to Dr Gungadin, no trace of DNA was found on the victim’s feet.

The medical examiner, also said that he was called to examine Avinash Treebhoowoon  on 14 January 2011, in the presence of police Inspector Jokhoo. He had found no injuries on his body and the accused was very cooperative and did not complain of brutality, said Dr Gungadin.

He also examined the other accused man and the key witness Raj Teekoye but not Dassen Narayen, the security officer who was also arrested in connection with the murder case.

Manrakhan also wanted to know if there was any possibility of death by drowning but the forensic officer also discarded that. He added that traces of blood in the water originated from Michaela’s nose bleeding which itself was caused by the forced asphyxiation in his view.

Judge Prithiviraj Fekna also asked the witness to answer a question from the jury as to the time of death. Dr Gungadin, though cautiously putting that evaluation of the time of death is not an exact science, estimated it to be between 2pm and 3pm.

When court initially resumed this morning following an abrupt adjournment yesterday the cross examination of the head of the Major Crime Investigation Team continued by Rama Valayden.

Valayden asked Yusuf Soopun if he was in possession of CCTV footage for the 9 and 10of January 2011. On the affirmative answer of assistant commissioner of police, Judge Fekna asked him to bring the footage to the court on Friday.

Cross examination was reserved until then.

The sitting judge also gave a ruling on the request from the defence for the prosecution to give additional particulars. The judge was not in favour of the request and said that there was not sufficient ground for the prosecution to furnish any further particulars to the court.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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Ajai Daby in Mauritius

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