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Yusuf Soopun who gave evidence to the court in Mauritius today (File) Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Michaela murder trial: Police chief says hotel was uncooperative

The head of the unit investigating the death of the Tyrone woman said that management at the hotel where she was found dead were more concerned about their establishment’s reputation.

THE MANAGEMENT OF the hotel where Michaela McAreavey was killed last year were accused of being uncooperative and only interested in their establishment’s reputation by the Assistant Commissioner of the Mauritian police in court today.

Yusuf Soopun, head of the Major Crimes Investigation Team (MCIT), made the accusations towards the management of the Legends hotel, which is now renamed ‘Lux’, saying they were uncooperative and favoured the defence for the two men who are standing trial for the murder.

He said that that the management were more concerned about the reputation of the hotel than finding the murderer of Michaela McAreavey.

Two former employees of the hotel, Avinash Treebhoowon and Sandip Moneea, are accused of the murder of Michaela McAreavey on 10 January 2011. They deny the charges.

Cross-examined by Rama Valayden, counsel for Moonea, Soopun was asked if members of his police force had been to the hotel to see if the magnetic cards found in room 1025, where the McAreavey couple were staying, fitted in the door of the room.

The head of the MCIT said that “no one did it on first few days”. Asked if it had been done a week or two later, Soopun became visibly angry and said that he wished to point out “that the hotel management had been very uncooperative with the police whilst at the same time they have been favouring the defence of the accused.”

Earlier in the morning, the head of the MCIT accused the hotel’s chief of security of having “played a dirty game” with the police. Examined by Medhi Manrakhan, lead counsel for the prosecution, he explained that he had to make “persistent” requests before being able to access the door readings of room 1025.

“I want to say that the management of the hotel, and more particularly Mr Imrit (Chief Security officer of Legends) has played a dirty game with the police,” he told the court.

Soopun explained that the victim’s husband, John McAreavey, would never have been treated as a suspect if the Chief Security Officer had produced the records of electronic boards of room 1025 to detectives who arrived at the hotel on the day in question. January 10, 2011.

He said: “We had to insist to obtain records and discovered subsequently, that the electronic board of a supervisor was used to open the chamber of the Irish couple at 2.42pm, two minutes before the victim had used her card,” said Soopun.

The senior police officer provided details on the start of the investigation, when John McAreavey was not considered a suspect by the MCIT. He says he went to the police station where the deceased’s husband was being detained.

“I ordered that the police officers remove to his handcuffs and release him,” he said.

Asked by Crown counsel, Mehdi Manrakhan,  Soopun said that Sandip Mooneea covered for the main accused, Avinash Treebhowon, the day the two men were arrested on 11 January 2011.

“Our team wanted to get the working sheet of valets, and that’s when we found that the supervisor, Sandip Mooneea, was just filling a new document stating that the accused had cleaned the room 1028 and not the room 1025. It is clear that the supervisor wanted to protect Treebhoowon,” he added.

He also indicated that he was unaware that a German couple staying in the same block where the murder took place and who wanted to give witness statements. Both tourists were not interviewed by investigators from the MCIT.

Manrakhan then asked the witness if the head of hotel security had reported that the German couple had possibly witnessed something. The head of the MCIT responded in the negative, adding: “It shows the bad faith of Mr Imrit.”

Soopun also explained that a couple of Indian tourists were interviewed on the day of the murder as investigators wanted to establish what were the links between the Indian couple and McAreavey as they took the same flight to Mauritius.

The head of the MCIT has also strongly denied the allegations of police brutality made by the principal defendant.

Cross-examined by Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Avinash Treebhoowon’s lawyer, Soopun was confronted with the report from Cellmark Forensic DNA Laboratory in London that counsel said exonerated both accused and the prosecution witness, Raj Theekoye.

“We were greatly satisfied with these two arrests. We, however, continue our investigation into whether we were on track,” Soopun responded.

Soopun also explained that though theft was put as a motive for the intrusion into room 1025 and the subsequent murder of the Irish teacher, he did not deem it relevant to send the purses found in the room for forensic examinations and they were returned to John McAreavey.

He also told the court that he ignored the number of items secured in the room guessing it was between 32 and 50. In fact the court has heard that 39 items were secured. He said he trusted his officers whom he believed are “experienced and professional”.

Soopun also confessed he had not allowed the counsels Ravi Rutna (former counsel to Treebhoowon) and Sanjeev Teeluckdharry access to interview their clients to protect the integrity of the inquiry.

“The main exhibit is a card giving access to room 1025 and has not yet been recovered. There were apprehensions that there were other people involved in the case,” he said.

The trial continues tomorrow with cross-examination of the same witness and Dr Gungadin, who performed the autopsy on Michaela McAreavey.

Yesterday: Michaela accused denies being in hotel room at time of murder

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Ajai Daby in Mauritius