Saturday 18 November 2017

Michaela murder: Jurors to visit scene of the crime

David Young in Port Louis, Mauritius

THE jury in the Michaela McAreavey case will tomorrow visit the Mauritius hotel where the tragic honeymooner was murdered.

The nine jurors will be accompanied by judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah and defence and prosecution lawyers on the half-day exercise at the Legends Hotel in the north of the island.

Barristers for accused Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea made a joint motion to court requesting that the visit take place as the prosecution case drew to a close.

The six men and three women of the jury will be shown the since-renumbered room 1025 where the Co Tyrone teacher was found strangled last January.

They will also be taken to the nearby poolside restaurant where she lunched with her husband John before her death.

The prosecution claim she left him there to return to the room to fetch biscuits for her tea and walked in on Treebhoowoon and Moneea stealing.

On the private visit, the jury will be shown ten other rooms that have been mentioned during the last 20 days of the trial and other significant hotel sites and landmarks referred to in court.

Legends has since been renamed the Lux Hotel.

State prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan made no objection to the request from Rama Valayden, representing Moneea, and Treebhoowoon's barrister Sanjeev Teeluckdharry.

Judge Fecknah then asked the jurors for their view on the suggested visit.

"Are you of the opinion it would be helpful to you?"

The foreman of the jury replied: "Yes."

The jurors, judge, lawyers and associated court officials will leave from the Supreme Court in Port Louis around 10am tomorrow for the one-hour trip north.

They will return to court in the afternoon when the defence will set out in what order it intends to call witnesses ahead of opening its case on Wednesday.

The identity of a couple seen apparently arguing in the hotel in Mauritius where honeymooner Michaela McAreavey died is no longer an issue in the trial of two men accused of her murder, the judge has told jurors earlier.

Defence lawyers had originally claimed the man and woman were the Co Tyrone teacher and her husband John but today informed the Supreme Court in Port Louis they would not be pursuing the matter further.

Their statements came after a request from the prosecution for the defence counsel to make clear the couple were not the McAreaveys.

Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah told the nine jurors the identity of the people was not an issue.

"As far as you are concerned as members of the jury you need not delve any further into this aspect of the evidence," he said.

Last week, Assistant Police Commissioner Yoosoof Soopun told the court the couple captured in the grainy security camera image at the reception of the Legends Hotel the day Mrs McAreavey died were actually German holidaymakers Harald Hoyer and Savarese Graziella.

The footage was filmed just after 3pm on January 10 last year, around 15 minutes after the prosecution claim the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte was murdered by two hotel employees.

Former room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon, 31, and floor supervisor Sandip Moneea, 42, deny her murder.

The couple in the clip appeared to be engaged in a heated discussion, with the woman gesticulating, holding her head in her hands and at one point looking as if she was wiping her eyes.

Mrs McAreavey's widower, her brother Mark Harte and father-in- law Brendan McAreavey were all in court as the judge made his statement.

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