The husband of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey was described as a suspect in police logs in the hours after she was found dead, a court in Mauritius has heard.
But a senior police officer involved in the investigation told the trial of two hotel workers accused of strangling the Co Tyrone teacher that he did not know why that term, and the word accused, was used when referring to John McAreavey in official records.
Inspector Sunilduth Nucchedy insisted he had not identified any suspects at that time and suggested the choice of terminology was an error.
“I can’t say why the word suspect has been mentioned in the diary book or the word accused,” he told the jury.
Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, and Sandip Moneea, 42, deny murdering the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone gaelic football boss Mickey Harte at the island’s luxury Legends Hotel last January.
A day after a forensic expert from England revealed that no DNA from the two defendants was found on the dead honeymooner, a local Mauritian scientist told the court that tests carried out in labs on the island also did not find genetic material from the men on swabs from her body.
The trial at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, also heard that another Legends employee who alleges he saw the defendants leave the crime scene did not inform police about his claims originally.
While it emerged that a bellboy who was one of the first at the room after the murder, and who was due to give evidence, has left Mauritius and police do not know where he is. Meanwhile elsewhere on the island the only other man currently charged in relation with the crime – fellow Legends employee Dassen Naraynen – appeared in another court facing a provisional charge of conspiracy to commit larceny in connection with the McAreavey case.
Mrs McAreavey was found dead shortly after lunching with her husband by the pool at Legends.
The prosecution claim she returned to her room to fetch biscuits for her tea and caught the accused stealing in her room.
The police log entries which referred to John McAreavey as a suspect also revealed that a police sentry had been placed outside the room he stayed in the night after his wife died.
But responding to questions from defence counsel Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, representing Treebhoowoon, Mr Nucchedy said the officer was sent to the door of the room to fulfil victim support duties.
“Given that he that he is a foreigner and he just lost his wife in a murder case it could be that the police could be of assistance,” he explained.
Mr McAreavey’s father Brendan and sister Claire watched from the public gallery of the criminal court.
The widower has returned to the island but is unable to attend court proceedings until he gives evidence as a prosecution witness.
Mr Nucchedy, who was one of the first senior officers at the crime scene, revealed that police were originally told someone had drowned at the hotel, but it became clear it was murder when they arrived.
He said the room was in a “slightly disturbed” state – an impression he gleaned from the bed sheets, an open suitcase and clothes lying here and there.
The officer was asked by lawyers for both accused was he aware that a hotel guest had left the resort unexpectedly at 11.45pm on the day of the murder.
“I can’t say if there was any premature departure,” he replied.
Barrister for Moneea, Rama Valayden asked whether the officer had found a shoe print on the bed sheets in the room.
Mr Nucchedy said he spotted a dirty mark on the sheets but did not think it was a foot print.
He also revealed that police did not carry out a scan on the door entry system for room 1025, to see when it was opened around the time of the murder, before they handed custody of the room back to the hotel two weeks later.
The inspector confirmed to Mr Valayden that police do not currently know where former Legends bellboy Rajiv Bhujun is at the moment.
Having accompanied Mr McAreavey to the hotel room to let him in just before he found his wife dead in the bathtub, the prosecution had planned to call him as a witness.
But Mr Nucchedy said he is abroad and his last known port of call was Dubai.
Akiza Mooradun from the Mauritian forensic science services told the court that she carried out tests on swabs taken from Mrs McAreavey’s neck and two other locations.
She said the results only produced a genetic match that was likely to be hers.
But junior defence counsel for Treebhoowoon, Ravi Rutnah was critical of the scientist’s report, claiming it was not detailed enough.
“This is not proper scientific analysis,” he said.
Ms Mooradun responded: “From my point of view this report is complete.”
Samples from a number of items recovered from the crime scene and swabs from Mrs McAreavey were sent to Cellmark Forensic Services in the UK for specialist tests to see if DNA traces had been deposited through only contact.
Yesterday Cellmark expert Susan Woodroffe told court that no matches with the two defendants were identified. Today Mr Rutnah pressed Ms Mooradun on why a bikini top found on the victim was not sent to Cellmark, even though it had traces of blood on it.
Mauritian labs were not able to find a genetic profile on the garment, the court heard.
But Ms Mooradun told the jury that it would not have been appropriate to send it on to Cellmark, as its labs specialised in “touch” DNA.
While Ms Woodroffe found no matches from the two accused men on the samples she tested, she did identify a potential match with Naraynen on a key card for the room.
The English expert said a possible DNA match for Naraynen was also identified on a cupboard in the room, but she stressed that could be a chance observation in results and not actually proof he touched it.
The hotel worker was at Mapou court in the north of the island today facing a provisional charge of conspiracy to commit larceny, having had a provisional charge of conspiracy to murder dropped.
Proceedings were adjourned until August when the prosecution is expected to be in a position to confirm whether it intends to proceed with an official charge.
Back at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, it emerged that a former suspect in the case who now claims he saw the two accused emerge from the crime scene did not originally tell police that version of events.
Raj Theekoy made a signed statement to investigating officers the day after the honeymooner was found strangled.
“I did not kill the lady,” he said. “I don’t know how she was killed.
“I don’t know anything about the lady.”
Mr Theekoy provided no further details about the murder at that time.
He is now a witness against fellow Legends employee Treebhoowoon and Moneea.
Mr Theekoy was originally charged with conspiracy to murder but the case was dropped.
The trial of the two defendants has already been told that the hotel cleaner claims he heard female cries from the room where Mrs McAreavey was killed and shortly after saw Treebhoowoon and Moneea exit the door.
But he provided none of those details when he was interviewed on January 11 last year.
The contents of his statement then was read to court today by one of the police officers present at the interview, constable Hans Rouwin Seevathian.
Constable Seevathian today also denied threatening Treebhoowoon in the days after the murder.
Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah is presiding over the trial with a jury of six men and three women.