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Monday 24 July 2017

Michaela's family will not travel to Mauritius for pre-trial

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

THE family of murdered Michaela Harte are not travelling to Mauritius for the first stage in the trial of the men accused of killing her.

As part of the judicial process in Mauritius a pre-trial begins on Monday to determine what witnesses can be called for the full trial, which is expected to be held later this summer.

The 27-year-old Tyrone beauty queen was found dead in the luxury Legends Hotel on January 10, just 12 days after she married footballer John McAreavey.

He found Michaela's body in the bath in their honeymoon suite. The heartbroken husband, who returned to the Down football panel last month, may have to travel to Mauritius to give evidence in court. The decision on whether to call him will be made by the Mauritian Director of Public Prosecutions.

But Mr McAreavey is not travelling to the Indian Ocean Island for the preliminary trial next week. A source close to the Harte family said they are all "anxiously waiting" the outcome of the first stage of the trial to be completed. "They just want to see the judicial process take its course," the source said.

Detective Inspector Ranjit Jokhoo, who is heading up the investigation, said: "If there is the need to call Mr McAreavey, he will be called."

Det Inspt Jokhoo's team have quizzed hotel staff and made a number of arrests.

Two hotel workers -- Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Mooneea -- are charged with Michaela's murder and are expected to appear in court on Monday. It is believed the pre-trial will continue for at least three days before a decision is made on whether they should be sent to the country's high court.

A key decision will be based on the evidence of hotel cleaner Raj Theekoy. Mr Theekoy was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder because he heard screams but did not run to help. The charge was dropped and he is now a star witness for the prosecution.

Earlier, Mr Theekoy claimed he had walked by Michaela's hotel room but had become suspicious that a cleaning trolley was outside it when the door was closed.

Hotel rules state that all doors must remain open while cleaners are working. He told police he heard screams inside the room and saw the two accused walk away. When he confronted them, they warned him to stay silent, he claimed in a statement.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has yet to announce a trial date but official sources indicated it will be fast-tracked.

The Harte and McAreavey families have received thousands of letters of support from sympathisers. Tyrone trainer Mickey Harte said the messages and cards had been a "huge help" to his family.

Irish Independent

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