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John McAreavey arrives at the court in Port Louis to hear proceedings today. Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Witness claims one of accused men was with him on day of Michaela killing

The court heard evidence from a number of people who worked at the Legends hotel where Michaela McAreavey was strangled to death last year while on honeymoon.

A WITNESS IN the Michaela McAreavey trial has claimed he was with one of the two men accused when the Tyrone woman was killed in Mauritius last year.

Govinden Saminaden, a room attendant at the Legends hotel and witness for the prosecution gave unexpected testimony at the court in St Louis when he declared he was accompanied by Sandip Moneea, one of the two accused, when Michaela McAreavey was killed.

The witness also claimed that he had been forced by the police officers of the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT) to give a false statement.

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

Saminaden told the court that his superior, Moneea, was with him on the afternoon of January 10, 2011, at a time when Michaela was killed. He said he did not recognise the content of the evidence that the prosecution claims incriminates Sandip Moneea and claimed to have been forced by agents of the MCIT to sign this document.

Cross-examined by Rama Valayden, Moneea’s lawyer, the witness argued that the accused was in room 1009, some distance from the room 1025  where Michaela and her husband John McAreavey had been staying during their honeymoon.

He said that at the moment when records showed that room 1025 was being opened he was with Moneea in room 1009 between 2.40pm and 3pm on the fateful day.

“Sandip blamed me for having improperly cleaned the room 1008. He then asked me to repeat the cleaning. Then I took care of the chamber 1009 where a VIP client was expected. He told me the floor was not clean and took the brush to show me how to clean it. And he was always with me,” Saminaden t0ld the court.

He also claimed that he had been threatened and bullied by elements of the MCIT, on January 25, 2011, to sign his deposition in connection with the investigation into the murder. The witness broke down in tears in describing how the police “forced” him to sign his six-page statement which he says ignored the events.

Saminaden explained that MCIT officers threatened to detain him unless he signed this statement. “They covered me with insults and continued to intimidate me by putting himself around me and hitting the table. I was traumatised.

“I did not understand what they said and I was forced to sign,” he added.

The court also heard from the the chief security officer of the hotel, Mohammad Mehtaz Imrit, who said there was a recording that the door of room 1025 was opened by someone using a supervisor card at 2.42pm on 10 January 2011.

For a person to take the keycard door of a room, said Mohammad Mehtaz Imrit, it must first sign a register indicating the name and functions in the hotel. He said he made photocopies of the door readings to give to investigators.

He also said that the electronic card that was sent to Britain for DNA testing had nothing to do with the investigation into the murder and said the card used to enter the room of the couple is still missing.

Earlier the court heard from the manager of Legends who was was cross examined by counsel Teeluckdharry.  Brice Lunot said that certain employees left the hotel after the tragic events of the 10 January.

Dick Ng Sui Wah, John McAreavey’s lawyer, also made a statement of clarification on behalf of his client saying that McAreavey had not gone to look for chocolate biscuits on Sunday, 9 January as he stated in his evidence yesterday but on Saturday, 8 January.

John McAreavy may be called to the witness stand again as the prosecution has agreed with the defence on this issue. A formal motion will be put when necessary, counsel Manrakhan said.

The trial continues.

Yesterday: John McAreavey breaks down as he testifies in Michaela murder trial

Read more about the Michaela McAreavey trial>

Ajai Daby in Mauritius