Friday 20 April 2018

McAreavey family pleads ‘pray for John’ as Michaela murder trial resumes in Mauritius

Mark Harte, brother of Michaela, with John McAreavey's sister, Claire, at the Supreme court in Port Louis, Mauritius.
Mark Harte, brother of Michaela, with John McAreavey's sister, Claire, at the Supreme court in Port Louis, Mauritius.
Mark Harte (right), brother of Michaela McAreavey, with John McAreavey's sister, Claire, leave the Supreme Court in Port Louis.
Mark Harte (right), brother of Michaela McAreavey, with John McAreavey's sister, Claire, arrive at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius, on day four of the murder trial of Sandip Mooneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon, accused of the murder of Irish citizen, Michaela McAreavy who was murdered during her honeymoon a year ago.
Avinash Treebhoowoon (right), arrives at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius, on day four of the murder trial of Irish citizen, Michaela McAreavy, who was murdered during her honeymoon a year ago.
Sandip Mooneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon (background) , leave the Supreme court in Port Louis, Mauritius.

THE heartbroken family of Michaela McAreavey last night asked the public to pray for her widowed husband John as he faces into a harrowing week at her murder trial in Mauritius.

The family made the appeal following a weekend of agony in the wake of dramatic court evidence about the couple's private lives during their honeymoon.

Last night's statement from Michaela's family said they were “very distressed at any attempt to denigrate the memory of Michaela”.

In the course of a torrid day of hearings on Friday, defence lawyers asked distressing questions about the newlyweds' sex life. Now the focus will switch to John McAreavey, who faces an ordeal in the witness box this week.

A spokesman for the McAreavey and Harte families thanked family, friends and the wider public for their “support and prayers as they endure this ordeal”.

And he said: “They would particularly ask that people continue to pray so that John may be granted the necessary strength to get through the very difficult and painful days ahead.”

During Friday's court session, the defence team representing the two men accused of her murder – Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea – asked questions about the couple's private lives.

Lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry's questioning of a police officer about a number of personal items he returned to John -- including a book, 'The Ultimate Sex Guide' -- led to fierce rows with the prosecution team.

At one point, Mr Teeluckdharry asked the policeman if he had examined the book and if he had "ever heard of subject matters like violent lovemaking".

Prosecution lawyer Mehdi Manrakhan objected to the question "in strongest possible terms" and the judge upheld the objection, but Mr Teeluckdharry persisted with the line of questioning.

The witness said he hadn't examined the book and that his only involvement with the items in question, which also included condoms, a laptop and three mobile phones, was to hand them back to John three days after Michaela's death.

Mr Teeluckdharry defended his line of questioning in court, saying: "It is very relevant. We are getting to the crux of the defence case."

Afterwards, he made no apologies for his strategy and pledged that it would continue, saying: "I am allowed to put those questions and we will see how the truth will come out."

As a witness himself, Mr McAreavey is not allowed to attend the proceedings but Michaela's family, who were in court -- her brother Mark Harte and sister-in-law Claire McAreavey -- listened in horror as the upsetting questions were put to the witness.

The trial began last Tuesday with the selection of the jury and both Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea pleading not guilty.

On Wednesday, Mr Manrakhan outlined the prosecution case against the two men, in which he claimed that 'star witness' Raj Theekoy would describe how he heard Ms McAreavey screaming as her life was brutally ended by the two thieves she caught red-handed in her bedroom.

He said a "fairytale wedding" had turned into John's "worst nightmare" when their honeymoon was "brutally interrupted by the senseless murder of the bride".

The following day, the court heard a graphic account of how one of the accused, Mr Treebhoowoon, was allegedly subjected to days of beatings and torture, including simulated drowning, by the police after his arrest.

Mr Treebhoowoon last year confessed to taking part in stealing from the McAreaveys' hotel room and implicated fellow defendant Mr Moneea in the killing of the young bride.

His lawyers have said that this confession was made under duress, an allegation that the Mauritian Police Force denied.

Various police witnesses faced tough cross-examinations, including a photographer, a draughtsman and Sergeant Poovindren Ramasawny from Grand Gaube, near the Legends Hotel where the couple were staying.

Questions were asked about interference in the crime scene in the days after Michaela's death, including the removal of the bath where her body was found, and why the few crime scene photographs taken were in black and white instead of colour.

Witnesses

On Friday, Sgt Ramasawny was accused of failing to interview potential witnesses, including a German couple who wanted to make a statement but were turned away because they did not speak English.

A forensic expert from Britain will be the only witness to testify today.

Susan Woodroffe was flown to Mauritius over the weekend to outline the forensic tests on samples taken in the hotel room where Michaela was murdered.

The scientist, from Cellmark Forensic Services in Oxford, is expected to describe how no DNA from the two accused, Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea, was found in the room.

Irish Independent

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