Case dogged by police brutality allegations
While the verdict will prompt serious questions about Mauritian police handling of investigation, their treatment of Michaela McAreavey’s widower, John, has also come under the serious criticism.
The bereaved husband was arrested, handcuffed and left alone in a police station for five hours.
During the trial, Assistant Chief Commissioner Yoosoof Soopun said the decision to detain John McAreavey was a wrong one, but he blamed the Legends hotel, insisting that staff withheld room entry records that would have immediately eliminated him from inquiries.
He offered no explanation for the alleged conduct of his officers during Mr McAreavey’s ordeal, in particular the one who apparently asked him why he was crying.
“You’re young, you’ll get another wife,” he allegedly said.
Allegations of police brutality against one of the accused were a consistent theme through the eight weeks of the trial.
Defendant Avinash Treebhoowoon made his first official complaint of ill-treatment at a court appearance two days after the murder. He would later allege that a confession statement signed by him the following day was extracted by violent means.
His claims against individual officers were repeated again and again throughout the case by his lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry and then by the defendant himself when he went into the witness box.
In summary he alleged he was subject to numerous beatings, grabbed in the groin, whipped on the soles of his feet with a pipe, hit on the head with a plastic bottle and stripped naked and held down on a table while his head was plunged into a bucket of water.
At one stage he vomited blood, he claimed.
The torture was not just physical, according to the accused. Detectives also allegedly threatened to lock up and beat his parents and, bizarrely, apparently told him they were going to send his wife to Ireland to live with Mrs McAreavey’s widower.
His chief tormentors, the accused claimed, were the officers of the police’s major crime investigation team (MCIT).
Defence lawyer Rama Valayden memorably claimed MCIT stood for “My confession is true”.
Treebhoowoon said much of the alleged violence was meted out in the team’s headquarters in Port Louis.
Each claim was rejected by the MCIT personnel when they gave evidence.
Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan challenged Treebhoowoon to explain why doctors who examined him during this period did not find any external signs of injury.
Mr Manrakhan put it to the defendant: “I tell you, you never got beaten, you lied.”
“No, I got beaten,” he replied firmly.
Mr Teeluckdharry said it would be naive to think police would not know of torture techniques that would leave no marks or traces.
Mr Valayden, who represented Moneea, shocked the jury as he attempted to demonstrate how hard it was to leave a lasting mark with a slap by striking himself hard on both cheeks.
The nine jurors looked taken aback, especially when the lawyer urged them to do the same.
There were chaotic scenes as the two acquitted men walked out of the court. Throngs of people cheered “justice, justice” in Creole as policemen hurried the men through the courtyard.
Moments later defence lawyers were carried aloft.
Outside court Treebhoowoon said he was overjoyed. He also expressed sympathy for the McAreaveys.
“I’m so sad about this lady,” he said. “But I did not k ll this lady.”
Moneea wept as he hugged his lawyer Rama Valayden.
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