Man charged with theft linked to Michaela murder to sue Mauritian state for ‘wrongful arrest’

Sandip Moneea. Photo: Steve Humphreys

John and Michaela McAreavey on their wedding day in 2011. Photo: PA

Sandip Moneea

John and Michaela McAreavey

Catherine Fegan

A former hotel worker bailed on charges of theft connected to the Michaela McAreavey murder plans to sue the Mauritian state for wrongful arrest.

Sandip Moneea (52), who was acquitted of the young teacher’s murder in a 2012 trial, was this week provisionally charged with conspiracy to commit larceny in the hotel room where Mrs McAreavey was killed.

Last month, another former hotel worker – former security guard Dassen Narayanen – was charged with the same offence.

Mr Moneea and Mr Narayanen stand accused of conspiring with each other to steal a magnetic key card to the room occupied by Mrs McAreavey and her husband to commit larceny.

Last night, Mr Moneea’s lawyer, Rama Valayden, said he was confident his motion to have the charge struck out would be successful.

“I believe 100pc that the charge does not stand in law and that the Director of Public Prosecutions will have to strike it out,” he said.

“Once that happens, we will sue the state for wrongful arrest and moral damages that are being imposed on Mr Moneea’s family.”

Mr Valayden said that according to the constitution of Mauritius, someone acquitted in a murder case cannot be arrested again by the police unless a special request is made in a court of law.

He claimed this procedure was not followed in his client’s case.

“There is no fresh and compelling evidence in relation to this case,” he said.

“The basis for Mr Moneea’s arrest and provisional charge is a new statement from Dassen Narayanen, who is under psychiatric care. Mr Moneea was arrested at his place of work, in what was a very public stunt, as part of a very slipshod inquiry. This is no good for anyone, no good for the victim’s family, for those who have again been wrongly accused and for the reputation of the country.”

Mr Valayden said Mauritius was currently in the midst of a “constitutional crisis” and that there was discontent at the “politicising of the police force”. “This case is being used as a distraction,” he said.

The card used to gain entry two minutes before Ms McAreavey went into her room has never been located. Traces of Mr Narayanen’s DNA were found on an unauthorised “dummy” magnetic card that was found in the hotel’s security office in the place where the actual staff card that opened the door of room 1025 should have been.

A potential genetic match to Mr Narayanen was also found on a cupboard in the bathroom of 1025 that contained a safe. But a DNA expert said it could have been a chance finding and wasn’t definite proof that he had touched it.

In media interviews at the time, Mr Narayanen claimed police beat him and held a revolver to his head before making him sign a statement saying he gave the stolen master keycard to Mr Moneea early on January 10, 2011. A second statement, which he also said was fabricated, implicated another member of staff, Seenarain Mungroo.

Mr Mungroo was questioned and charged by police, but the charges were later dropped when it emerged that Mr Narayanen had fabricated the story about him.

Ms McAreavey (27) was strangled at the Legends Hotel in Mauritius on January 10, 2011. The teacher, who had married husband John 10 days earlier, was allegedly attacked after she returned to her room alone and disturbed a burglary. No one has been convicted of her murder.

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