Saturday 21 October 2017

John shakes his head in disbelief as court erupts in cacophony of cheers

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MOST of courtroom number five erupted in a cacophony of cheers as the jury foreman read out the unanimous verdict of "not guilty", first in the murder charges against Avinash Treebhoowoon, then for his co-accused Sandip Moneea.

Most, but not all. As the families of the two men defied pleas of "silence" from the ushers at the back of the packed chamber, John McAreavey shook his head silently in disbelief.

Along with his wife's brother, Mark Harte, he had spent the agonising final minutes before the verdict was read out with his head in his hands, as more than 250 onlookers waited patiently in stifling conditions.

And when the verdict came, all hell broke loose elsewhere.

Almost immediately, Mr McAreavey, his father Brendan, sister Claire and Mr Harte stood up and battled their way through the crowd, assisted by two PSNI officers, in a determined bid for the exit.

It was, understandably, the very last place they wanted to be.

After two months, and a trial that became a "harrowing" ordeal for John, there was a verdict that provides them with no answers on how Michaela met her brutal end, no sense of justice being served, no sense of closure.

The ecstasy of the accused men and their families was too much to bear.

He left quickly, but with the quiet dignity that has served him throughout this ordeal.

Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea burst into tears after their 18 months in prison, falsely charged with the honeymooner's horrific death.

Police removed their handcuffs and they embraced their wives, their parents, their lawyers, anyone that came within an arms' length of the dock where they have spent countless anxious hours in the last two months.

Mr Treebhoowoon's quiet wife Reshma choked on tears of joy, while Mr Moonea's wife Rehka bellowed at onlookers: "Today justice has been done.

"From the beginning I have said that my husband Sandip Moneea is 101pc innocent and today this is proved.

"We will celebrate the success of my husband," she cried.

The pair were immediately freed, and will not face another night in the grim Grand Riviere prison that became their home during the trial.

Hoisted

As the chaos moved outside, one of the defence lawyers, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, was hoisted on the shoulders of the jubilant crowd.

There was a melee as the media, both national and international, scrambled to speak to the barristers who have become household names on the tiny Indian Ocean Island.

Rama Valayden, the former attorney general representing Mr Moneea, said he had a message for Michaela's family.

"Don't despair," he said, "We will find the real guilty person and I can promise to you and the Irish nation that I as Rama Valayden and my friend Sanjeev will join me.

"We will continue our efforts in order to find the real guilty person."

Meanwhile, the two acquitted men were caught in a swirl of reporters and ecstatic relatives who set off firecrackers outside the Supreme Court gates.

"I am very happy," declared Mr Treebhoowoon, "Justice has prevailed. My wife is very happy -- and my lawyer," he added.

Asked if he had any thoughts for Michaela's family he said: "I'm so sad about the lady but I did not kill this lady," adding that "by god" he had told the truth.

On what he'd do next, he yelled, "Back to work."

His older co-accused Mr Moneea was more restrained, conceding only that he was "feeling great" when asked what it was like to be vindicated after more than a year in jail.

He added: "Of course I'm angry because I am innocent. There was no evidence but now I'm free I'm very happy."

Elsewhere on the island, away from the scenes of jubilation, Mr McAreavey and his family were making the lonely drive back to their Catholic Church-owned retreat.

They are no closer to answers or justice for Michaela.

Irish Independent

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