Creole court quiz turns more than a few heads
THEIR heads moved in unison, from right to left and back again, like they were watching a tennis rally.
The two defendants hardly took their eyes off the quick-fire exchanges between the prosecution's key witness and the defence barrister determined to undermine him.
Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea sat engrossed as Rama Valayden served question after question at Raj Theekoy.
Throughout the past two weeks of the Michaela McAreavey trial they have seldom appeared as engaged in proceedings inside courtroom five of Port Louis's Supreme Court.
It was perhaps because the cross-examination of the hotel worker who puts them at the murder scene was conducted entirely in French Creole.
Like Mr Theekoy, the accused are more comfortable in their native tongue than the stipulated English of Mauritian criminal courts.
Judge Prithviraj Fecknah said such exceptions were permitted, as long as the jury and lawyers were conversant.
"Can it go on record that the judge also understands Creole," he announced, before the trial's most anticipated witness began to testify.
Some had hired interpreters in anticipation of the language problem, but no such service appeared readily at hand for the loved ones of the tragic Co Tyrone honeymooner.
Her father-in-law Brendan and sister-in-law Claire sat through the exchanges, no doubt waiting to be filled in as to the content at the close.
Before entering the witness box, Mr Theekoy was seated alone, his right hand pressed hard against a knee shaking from apparent nerves.
Trepidation would have been understandable. From his first appearance at court to register as a witness two weeks ago, the 35-year-old father of one would have been under no illusions as to the significance of the trial, or of his evidence to it.
Dressed in a cream shirt and navy pin-striped trousers, he was mobbed by photographers and cameramen yesterday morning as he had been then.
His walk to the witness box inside court was no less daunting, shuffling past the scowling faces of sceptical relatives of the defendants. If looks could kill. But he showed no visible signs of fear as he extended his left arm to point directly at each of the accused in the dock below him when asked to identify them.
Mr Treebhoowoon, dressed in a white shirt, stared back impassively.
Mr Moneea, in a colourful pink-and-white vertical striped shirt, also did not react when he was singled out.
The witness, who was initially charged in connection with the murder but then granted immunity from prosecution, was not on the stand as long as he may have anticipated.