‘For us, we got the right people, I have no doubts’ – detective says Michaela McAreavey murder was ‘inside job’

New DNA tests could be crucial in catching murderer
Michaela McAreavey, daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Ian Magill.

Michaela McAreavey, daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Ian Magill.

Catherine Fegan

It was around 5pm on January 10, 2011. Rangit Jokhoo, then a detective inspector, was on duty in Line Barracks police station in Port Louis, on the island of Mauritius, when the call came through.

“We got a phone call to say there had been a murder in the Legends Hotel,” he told the Irish Independent this week.

“A lady had been murdered, a tourist.”

A short time before, the lifeless body of newly-wed Michaela McAreavey, a 27-year-old teacher from Co Tyrone, had been discovered by her husband, John, in the bathtub of their honeymoon suite.

The couple had married only 12 days before.

This week, more than 10 years after one of the most high-profile cases of his career, retired Det Insp Jokhoo was relaxing at his home in Pamplemousses, Mauritius.

While it came as news in Ireland yesterday that the Mauritian government had agreed to re-examine the McAreavey murder case, Mr Jokhoo had been aware of the development since last week.

“One of the police officers who is dealing with the case now called me,” said Mr Jokhoo, who was the original lead investigator in the probe.

Rangit Jokhoo, the original lead investigator in the McAreavey probe in 2011, stands over his investigation

Rangit Jokhoo, the original lead investigator in the McAreavey probe in 2011, stands over his investigation

“He wanted to talk about the case and asked for some information, which I gave to him and his team.

“I believe that the government is trying to make progress with this inquiry, but I stand over my original investigation.

“There is no need to go looking for other people here. We had the right people and I still believe that.

“We lost the case in court because we weren’t able to convince the jury.”

In 2012, two hotel workers, Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, went on trial for the murder but were unanimously acquitted.

They have always maintained their innocence, claiming they were scapegoated by the authorities as the spotlight fell on Mauritius and pressure mounted to arrest someone for the killing.

It is a charge Mr Jokhoo vehemently denies.

“There was no pressure coming from anywhere,” he said.

“We were just conducting an investigation like every other investigation involving murder.

“Yes, it was out of the ordinary because it was the first time a tourist had been murdered in Mauritius, but there was no pressure.

“Tourism was one of the pillars of our economy, yes, but why would we bring innocent people to court? For money? For promotion? No.”

During the trial, the Mauritian police came in for a barrage of criticism.

Accusations of inquiry bungling included failing to seal off the resort or to interview guests staying near the McAreaveys’ suite, as well as confirming in court that the purse the accused men were said to be stealing from was not tested for prints or DNA.

This week, Mr Jokhoo denied any mistakes had been made.

“We did everything we could,” he said.

“The police, we worked with what we had, we did all we had with what we had to bring the case to a successful end. We were not satisfied with the way things went in court. For us, we got the right people. For me, even now, I have no doubts about that.”

On claims of police brutality and torture, leading to the disputed confession of Mr Treebhoowon, Mr Jokhoo said: “This is a classic argument from counsel.”

With a new pledge to get justice for the Harte and McAreavey families, Mr Jokhoo said the focus should be on the exhibits that were gathered during the original probe. No DNA from either of the accused was found in the hotel room in Mauritius or on Michaela’s body.

“Eight years ago [during the trial], the tests for DNA were not as effective as they are today,” Mr Joknoo said.

“You can get more conclusive results and you don’t need so many samples to get a result for a DNA test.

“Lets hope that the Mauritian government will sponsor it because it costs a lot of money to send the samples to specialised labs in the US.

“We follow the British system of law here. Once a person has stood trial and the case against them has been dismissed, you cannot try him again for the same offence unless you bring new evidence, which at the time of the inquiry was not available.”

Mr Jokhoo, who has pledged to help the new team of investigators as best he can, believes the murder was “an inside job”.

According to the computerised key card system that was in operation in the hotel at the time, Michaela’s room keycard was used to enter Room 1025 at 2.44pm on the day of the killing.

However, the system recorded that another swipe card had been used to access the room only two minutes earlier.

“This was an inside job,” Mr Jokhoo said.

“Not only was that card never found, but when we looked for it in the control room we found that it had been replaced by a dummy.

“Who could have got access to the security room to get a card and replace it with a dummy?

“There have been other inquiries into this case since, two before this latest one, but they [the new team] are going to go round and round.

“I don’t think they are going to find another person because there were no other people and we got the right people.”

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