Friday 22 September 2017

Desperate cries came from bride's room, court hears

Honeymooners: Michaela Harte and John McAreavey had been 'planning their lives together'
Honeymooners: Michaela Harte and John McAreavey had been 'planning their lives together'
Police photographer Sutish Sharma Jeetwooth.
The wife of Avinash Treebhoowoon, his mother Mala and barristers.
Rekha Moneea, wife of Sandip Moneea.
Sandip Moneea.

MICHAELA McAreavey screamed as her life was brutally ended by the two thieves she caught red-handed in her bedroom, a court in Mauritius was told yesterday.

The daughter of Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte was cruelly slain in a room in the island's luxury Legends Hotel as her fairytale wedding turned into a nightmare, a chief prosecutor told jurors.

Opening the case against the two accused, prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan claimed that another hotel worker, Raj Theekoy, was outside when he heard her desperate cries. But rather than helping her, he fled and hid in another room.

The lawyer said that Michaela and her new husband John had decided to spend their honeymoon on what he called "our paradise island". These were "meant to be the best days of their married life".

"Regrettably," Mr Manrakhan told the jury, "that honeymoon was brutally interrupted by the senseless murder of the bride."

Defendants Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea have both pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder.

Mr Manrakhan said the prosecution's "star witness", Mr Theekoy, would tell the court that he saw the accused leaving Michaela's room from his hiding place shortly after he had heard her screams.

Originally charged with involvement in connection with the killing because he did not respond to the cries of distress, Mr Theekoy has now been granted immunity in return for his testimony.

Mr Manrakhan claimed that Mr Theekoy was working near Michaela's room when "he heard a female crying, 'Ah, ah, ah', as if she was in pain".

He continued: "Raj Theekoy, members of the jury, got scared when he heard that female voice crying and he went to hide near room 1021, which is close to room 1025, and also to see who would come out of room 1025.

"Raj Theekoy would see both accused coming out of room 1025. In fact, Accused No 1's (Mr Treebhoowoon's) face appeared wet and he was wiping his face with his hand."

Mr Manrakhan said that after Mr Theekoy had learned of Michaela's death later that day he asked the defendant what had happened.

At this point, Mr Moneea allegedly threatened him, saying: "If you open your mouth, I'll get you involved in the case."

The trial began yesterday after jurors had been selected on Tuesday and the two accused men had made their pleas.

John McAreavey did not attend court yesterday. As a witness himself, he cannot watch proceedings. His testimony is expected next week.

Meanwhile, his father Brendan and brother-in-law Mark Harte attended, along with his sister Claire, who occasionally took notes in the course of the the hearing.

The trial began with Mr Manrakhan explaining in heart-breaking detail how the 27-year-old had lost his wife Michaela, "the love of his life".

Bruises

The prosecutor said the couple arrived in Mauritius on January 8, 2011 and that she was killed just two days later.

He described how John had taken golf lessons that morning while Michaela stayed by the pool. They met for lunch and Michaela returned to her room, number 1025, to get biscuits.

Mr Manrakhan said John later found his wife's lifeless body in the bathtub. He cried for help and tried to revive her.

The lawyer said Mr Treebhoowoon had been scheduled to clean the couple's room that day and the defendant confessed to police that he had been "caught red-handed" by Michaela while he was stealing from her room.

Mr Manrakhan said: "There can be no doubt that Michaela was brutally killed" as she had been found with "several bruises and abrasions on her neck".

Two police witnesses outlined how Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea were charged with Michaela's murder while they were in prison last May.

Both accused men had responded by saying they were "totally innocent", with Mr Treebhoowoon adding, "I was brutalised by the MCIT (major crime investigation team)."

Mr Treebhoowoon's lawyers have alleged that his confession was extracted after he had been beaten. The police force denies this.

Police cameraman Sutish Sharma Jeetwooth was later subjected to hours of cross-examination by defence lawyers.

They criticised the police officer's use of black and white photography, rather than colour, when he was documenting the crime scene and the subsequent reconstructions.

Counsel for Mr Moneea, Rama Valayden, asked the photographer about the biscuits that Michaela had returned to her room to collect.

Under questioning, Mr Jeetwooth said the biscuits had been in a partially opened drawer on the day of Michaela's death, but had been on a table top in pictures taken during a reconstruction two days later.

Mr Valayden confirmed with the witness that the crime scene was still cordoned off when the second set of pictures was taken. He indicated his intention to return to this matter in his questioning today.

Irish Independent

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