Documentary uncovers major flaws in Michaela murder probe
DISTURBING discoveries about how vital evidence was overlooked in the investigation into the murder of Tyrone woman, Michaela McAreavey, almost two years ago in Mauritius, will be highlighted in a UTV documentary tonight.
The Insight team travelled to the paradise island - where Mrs McAreavey was honeymooning - to ask questions as to why police and the Mauritian judicial system have so far failed to bring the killers of the only daughter of Tyrone GAA boss, Mickey Harte, to justice.
Almost two years on from the murder, award-winning journalist Chris Moore learned some disturbing facts about the failed investigation and trial, exploring how vital evidence was overlooked, why a key witness was allowed to leave the country and how police notoriety influenced the jury.
Chris Moore said: “Justice was denied Michaela McAreavey in July when two men accused of her murder walked free. It raised questions about the abilities of the police and the prosecutors, and today it’s far from clear if the Mauritians have the resolve to match their promise to find justice for Michaela.”
Insight heard from lawyers and retired police officers how the police unit that investigated Michaela’s murder had a reputation for beating confessions out of suspects – but was careful to leave no tell-tale signs of physical injuries.
Mauritian lawyer, Jean Claude Bibi, said that because the jury in the trial was aware of such police brutality, they came to the conclusion that the confessions were ‘nil and void’ – and so acquitted the two men.
Human rights campaigners say that 57 people have been killed in police custody in Mauritius since 1979; 54 of them since 1990 and 35 since the current prime minister took control in 1995.
Emails and phone calls from the Insight team to the government seeking a comment on these figures remain unanswered.
Dr Gujjali, a former senior police medical officer, said: “The problem in Mauritius is, when a case of brutality crops up, it’s the police that inquire. Police against police doesn’t work.”
Insight looked at how Raj Theekoy, a hotel worker charged in connection with the Michaela McAreavey case, went from being a murder suspect to a key state witness - after 77 days in custody.
And the team also reveals how Theekoy gave two different statements to police.
Early last year, the Mauritian police told UTV that they had enough ‘scientific evidence’ to bring their suspects to court without the need for confessions.
When defence lawyers asked for it to be produced – none was forthcoming – because Insight says, it did not exist.
Chris Moore and his team want to question the Mauritian police about missed investigative opportunities: why were no fingerprints taken at the murder scene and why were doors in the honeymooners’ room not checked for possible DNA?
Away from Mauritius, they also talked to Dr John Bond, a forensics’ expert with 20 years’ police experience in England.
He says that the value of the evidence was very limited; it was not the type of DNA material that could not positively link any one person to the murder – including the two accused.
Local lawyer Jean Claude Bibi says that 80% of cases within the Mauritian criminal justice system are based on confessions.
He says his country is ashamed of the horrible truth that the police there have no tradition of real investigation - instead they are experts in extracting confessions under torture.
The programme also looked at the prosecution’s failure to call two material witnesses who could hold vital information.
One is bellboy Rajiv Bhujun who let John McAreavey into the room where his wife lay dead - and the other is hotel security guard, Dassen Naraynan, who was patrolling the hotel at the time of the murder.
Insight asked why Bhujun did not appear in court and why there seems to have been little attempt to find him when he left the island.
At the time, he told police in his statement that the patio doors were open with the curtains blowing in.
John tried to get in through the patio doors earlier and found they were locked - so the bellboy’s statement suggests that when John tried the main door and then the patio doors - the killer or killers might still have been inside.
And it further creates the possibility that the patio doors could have been used as a means of escape. The forensics’ expert Dr Bond says he would have looked for possible entry and exit points used by the killers in order to gather DNS or fingerprint evidence.
The programme makers discovered the patio doors being used as a getaway route was never really investigated by the police and their photographer admitted in court that he hadn’t taken any pictures of the footprints in the sand on the other side of them.
Dassen Narayan was initially charged with conspiracy to murder but two months later, the charge was struck off.
The UTV team learned that security guard Narayan’s trace DNA was found on a key card in a room at the other end of the complex – and not as previously reported by media outlets – in the McAreaveys’ hotel room.
The programme showed previously unseen CCTV footage of the guard patrolling on a route that passed the patio doors of the McAreavey’s room – 25 minutes before the murder.
And yet in court, it was stated that he had no reason to be in that area of the hotel at all.
He – like the bellboy – was one of the first on the scene on the day of the murder when the alarm was raised.
Yet, says Insight, neither was called as a witness in the trial and the prosecution decided to exclude Bhujun’s testimony.
Insight also looked at what is happening now: the Mauritian Prime Minister has set up an inquiry into the judicial system following the two acquittals and he has requested help from the PSNI.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General is reviewing the court case and one of the victims of police brutality on the island is calling for the unit that investigated the McAreavey murder to be disbanded.
Insight pledges to continue to follow the case and to monitor events in Mauritius as the new police investigation progresses.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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