Tuesday 16 January 2018

Michaela murder trial: John shows rare smile as he remembers his beautiful bride

John McAreavey (left), husband of Michaela McAreavey, arrives at the supreme court in Port Louis
John McAreavey (left), husband of Michaela McAreavey, arrives at the supreme court in Port Louis
Sandip Mooneea arrives at court
Avinash Treebhoowon
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela McAreavey, leaves after giving evidence at the supreme court. Photo: PA
John McAreavey arrives at the Supreme Court in Mauritius yesterday to give evidence at the murder trial of his wife
John McAreavey arrives at the court in Port Louis yesterday with Mark Harte
A similar room several doors down from where Michaela was killed at the Legends Hotel in Mauritius.
Murdered Michaela McAreavey and her husband John on their wedding day (Irish News/PA)

David Young in Port Louis, Mauritius

IT was a rare moment as John McAreavey allowed the flicker of a smile to lighten his face.

He had just spoken of his love for the woman who "completed" his life and had started showing snapshots of his sweetheart to the jury in the trial of two hotel workers in Mauritius.

It came to one of Michaela on board a plane as the couple jetted off on their trip of a lifetime. She had her mobile phone to her ear, pretending to make a call, with a broad grin across her face.

"That's Michaela on the flight over to our honeymoon," her widower said fondly. "Looking happy as usual."

Moments earlier, Mr McAreavey had stared directly at the two men accused of murdering his bride in Mauritius as he strode purposefully to the witness stand yesterday.

He stood only yards away from them throughout what would be testimony of the most heart-rending and visceral kind.

Today he was back in the courtroom – he is now allowed to attend the proceedings having completed his testimony and cross examination.

Local Mauritians who pack the public gallery to watch the high-profile trial had previously been criticised for laughing during proceedings but with John’s heartbreaking evidence a few tears flowed on those same benches as courtroom 5 fell silent.

"It must be terribly hard for you to think and talk about these events," prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan said apologetically yesterday

as he asked the 27-year-old Co Down man to go back to the day he lost his wife.

Earlier, he had requested that he try to speak in a neutral accent, explaining that jurors were unfamiliar with the Irish brogue.

Mr McAreavey stood in the witness box as he recalled January 10 2011, his hands leaning on the wooden bench in front.

At one point his lawyer asked the judge if it would be okay if he was allowed to sit.

"I'm okay," he assured before Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah had time to answer.

In a clear and assured manner, the young accountant described how the day had began, with him going to play golf and Michaela opting for some down time at the pool.

It was only as he started to relive those desperate moments when he entered room 1025 to find his wife lifeless in a running bath that his voice cracked and faltered.

Breathing deeply and glancing at the ceiling, he tried to go on.

"I could hear the water gushing in the bathtub and Michaela, she was just bobbing there," he said, struggling through welling tears to describe how he had grabbed her from the water and laid her on the floor.

"I thought she might have fainted."

His sister Claire, who has stoically sat through each minute of the trial thus far, got to her feet.

"Can someone get him some water?," she urged. A bottle was duly produced, Mr McAreavey gripped it tightly.

After taking some moments to compose himself, he continued.

There was a collective shudder as the talented gaelic footballer then described his initial fears his wife had been sexually assaulted.

He also recounted his frantic attempts to call home while medics worked on Michaela.

"At one stage I eventually got through to my father and I can't remember what I said, but something was wrong with Michaela and I asked him to get Michaela's father to call me and then Mickey (Harte) called me and just asked 'how are you, is everything okay?'

"I was in hysterics and I couldn't utter the words, what had happened and what was going through my mind."

There was another gasp from sections of the court when Mr McAreavey recounted how his impassioned plea to a doctor to use a defibrillator was met.

"He said 'what do you want me to do? she's dead," Mr McAreavey said.

If the ordeal was painful enough, then came the revelations about Mr McAreavey's treatment at the hands of the police.

He referred to their actions as "insensitive". Other observers used much stronger terms.

Led and away and bundled into the back of a jeep, left to wait while officers stopped off for a bite to eat and told not to cry because "you're young, you will get another wife", he was then left in a room handcuffed and alone for five hours.

"Were you given any food?," defence lawyer Rama Valayden asked.

"No," Mr McAreavey replied flatly.

"Anything to drink?"


While the hurt that he still feels "hour by hour, day by day" was laid bare in court, so was the spirit that appears to have sustained him in the last 17 months.

When it came his time to be cross-examined, the change in demeanour was noticeable - he was determined not to take a backward step.

He repeatedly corrected defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry.

"You play professional sport," the barrister stated.

"It's an amateur sport in Ireland," Mr McAreavey clarified. "It's not professional."

But there were far more sensitive issues which he pulled him up on.

Mr Teeluckdharry's continued use of the word "lady" to refer to his wife was one.

"Which lady?," he shot back.

Mr McAreavey's lawyer again intervened.

"I would ask my learned friend to refer to Mrs McAreavey as the 'wife', not the 'lady', they were married," he said.

Mr Teeluckdharry acceded to the request.

"I have no problems referring to the lady as Michaela," he said, before immediately calling her "Mrs Harte".

"Mrs McAreavey," her husband said sternly.

The barrister later asked him to look at a book of police photographs.

As the witness started to flick through them, his legal brief again swiftly intervened to warn that they contained images of his late wife.

Seemingly annoyed that he had not been forewarned by Mr Teeluckdharry, Mr McAreavey tossed the book back onto the bench while shaking his head.

But his replies remained polite.

"I have a lot of faith in Mauritian courts," he said at one point, explaining why he had not returned to the island for previous hearings.

"If they had requested me to be here I would have been here without a problem."

Closing his evidence to the prosecution, Mr McAreavey was asked why he gone back to room 1025 the day after the murder.

"The only things I wanted out of the room were my wedding ring and Michaela's wedding ring and engagement ring," he said.

"The rings were returned to me and also Michaela's rosary beads."

Mr Manrakhan then concluded with a question that hardly needed an answer.

"I suppose you miss her a lot?"

"I guess you could say that," he replied.

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