Friday 24 November 2017

Horror for Michaela family over courtroom sex slur

Michaela McAreavey's brother, Mark Harte, and John McAreavey's sister, Claire, leaving the court building after yesterday's dramatic court hearing. Photo: STEVE HUMPHREYS
Michaela and John McAreavey on their wedding day
Defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry
State prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE FAMILY of Michaela McAreavey listened in horror yesterday as lawyers for the men accused of her honeymoon murder delved into the private details of the newlyweds’ sex life.

Lawyers clashed bitterly as a police witness was grilled about personal items returned to her husband John McAreavey, including a book – ‘The Ultimate Sex Guide’ – and a box of condoms.

The policeman was later asked if he had "ever heard of subject matters like violent lovemaking". The prosecution team "strongly objected" to the questions directed at the police officer and the judge upheld their objections.

However, that did not end the cross-examination and Michaela's family members in court were visibly upset as they were forced to endure a torrid day in the humid courtroom on the paradise island of Mauritius. As the lawyers argued, Michaela’s brother, Mark Harte, was hunched over, arms folded and head bowed almost to his knees.

He remained that way for much of the afternoon. Mr McAreavey’s sister Claire brought her hands to her face, clasped them together and held them there as the lawyers continued asking the distressing questions.

John McAreavey himself was not present in court because, as he is scheduled to be a witness, he is not permitted to attend. The intrusion into the newlyweds’ sex life came ahead of Mr McAreavey’s appearance in the witness box, which may happen as early as next week.

The clash between prosecution and defence lawyers over the intimate items that the couple had brought on their honeymoon came on the fourth day of the trial of the two men, Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, who are accused of murdering Michaela.

Defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, representing Mr Treebhoowoon, attempted to justify his line of questioning, saying he was concerned with only one thing. "What is the truth?" he asked. "Have police arrested the proper culprit?"

Police officer Poovindren Ramasawmy, who is based at Grand Gaube police station, near the Legends Hotel where Michaela died, had been asked about a statement made by Mr McAreavey when the couple's personal belongings were returned to him by the police three days after his wife's death.

He said that he handed over several items and listed them.

"A book, named 'The Ultimate Sex Guide'; a Durex box; two vaginal jelly tubes; sedative pills; two Apple iPhones, one Sony Ericsson portable phone; one mobile phone charger; one laptop, model Dell, colour black; and a laptop charger, make Dell. That's all, my Lord."

Mr Teeluckdharry asked the witness if the items had been sent for inspection by forensic and IT specialists in the police force and Mr Ramasawmy replied that he didn't know.

He said his only role was to return them to Mr McAreavey when he was told to do so by a superior officer.

Mr Teeluckdharry then put it to him that such "articles could be of much relevance for the purposes of an investigation. Do you not agree?" The witness agreed but said: "I can't say if they were inspected."

The lawyer then continued: "iPhones and laptops can contain a lot of information -- messages and pictures -- as well as the correspondence of John McAreavey and Michaela Harte abroad -- incoming and outgoing -- to close friends and relatives."

At this point, prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan objected to the line of questioning and Judge Prithviraj Fecknah pointed out that it was "futile" to keep questioning the witness as he had not examined the McAreaveys' belongings himself.

Mr Teeluckdharry persisted, however, saying "you mentioned a book, the 'Ultimate Sex Guide'" and asking him whether he had gone through the book with the witness. The police officer said he had not.

Mr Manrakhan again objected saying "I can't see the relevance" before Mr Teeluckdharry responded: "It is very relevant. We are getting to the crux of the defence case."

He asked the witness: "Why did you not look?"

Mr Ramasawmy replied: "I just took all the belongings and handed them over to John McAreavey."


The defence lawyer then said to the witness: "A couple is on honeymoon. There is a book called 'The Ultimate Sex Guide'. Have you ever heard of subject matters like violent lovemaking?"

This question prompted Mr Manrakhan to interject: "I object in the strongest possible terms." The judge upheld the objection as Michaela's family looked on grim-faced.

Nevertheless, Mr Teeluckdharry continued: "Officer, are you in a position to tell the court if the book contained matters in relation to BDSM?"

BDSM stands for bondage, domination and sado-masochism.

Mr Manrakhan objected again. Judge Fecknah told the defence lawyer: "I can see where you are going with this," but pointed out that the witness had already told Mr Teeluckdharry that he had not examined the book and the various other items.

He said the defence needed to direct such questions to police officers who had inspected the McAreaveys' belongings and should make a motion to call them as witnesses.

Mr Teeluckdharry asked the witness who had examined the items and the witness said it was the Major Crime Investigation Team, although he did not know the names of the officers.

As the arguments between the lawyers continued, Judge Fecknah called a break in proceedings.

When the court resumed, other witnesses were called and a later cross-examination of Mr Ramasawmy moved on to other matters.

The trial will continue on Monday, when forensic scientist Susan Woodroffe flies in to testify on the DNA evidence.

Irish Independent

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