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'I heard Michaela scream out in pain as she was murdered'

MICHAELA McAreavey screamed in agony as she was being strangled to death, a shocked courtroom heard today in Mauritius.

LAWYER Mehdi Manrakhan told a jury in the trial of two men accused of her murder that a witness heard a scuffle taking place in room 1025 at the Legend's Hotel.

The prosecutor told the court: "He heard a female voice crying and then 'Agh, agh, agh' as if she was in pain."

He claimed the witness - Raj Theekoy - then saw the two men accused of the murder leave the hotel room.

Mr Manrakhan added: "This was a dream honeymoon for John (McAreavey, her husband) and Michaela, which turned into a nightmare." He said John had lost "the woman of his life".

Defendants Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea deny the charge of premeditated murder.

The prosecutor said Mr McAreavey had returned to their room after his wife -- daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte -- failed to return from fetching biscuits to have with a cup of tea. He had to get a member of the hotel staff to open the door when no-one answered.

"As soon as John entered room 1025 his worst nightmare began," said Mr Manrakhan.

"In the bathroom John saw Michaela lying senseless in the bathtub."



Compression

Mr Manrakhan said medical examinations showed Mrs McAreavey died from asphyxiation due to compression of the neck.

"Medical evidence is such that there can be no doubt that Michaela had been brutally killed," he said.

The prosecution told the jury that it will produce evidence in due course and establish that the two accused committed the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

Michaela's widower John McAreavey was not seen in the courtroom today but his sister Claire attended, as did Michaela's brother Mark Harte.

Mr McAreavey is one of 30 witnesses listed for the prosecution. It is understood he is number 24 on the list.

Today, extra security measures were implemented at the trial, which is the biggest court case in the history of the small Indian Ocean island.

The high-profile case at the Mauritius Supreme Court saw chaotic scenes as it began with John McAreavey mobbed by crowds outside.

The two men accused of strangling his wife were also buffeted as they were led through throngs of people.

In apparent response in the unruly scenes, security barriers were in place today as handcuffed Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea were escorted into court five.

Michaela McAreavey (27) was found dead in the bathtub of her luxury hotel room in the island paradise last January -- just two weeks after her wedding.

The case against hotel room attendant Treebhoowoon (30) and floor supervisor Moneea (42) is being heard in the Supreme Court in the capital city Port Louis.



Deny

Treebhoowoon, from Plaine des Roches, and Moneea, from Petit Raffray, deny premeditated murder.

A jury of nine - six men and three women - is hearing the case.

A lone police truck transported the defendants from the high-security La Bastille prison in the nearby town of Phoenix today -- a more low-key entrance than yesterday's speeding convoy of vehicles.

Though most Mauritians speak a variant of French as their first tongue, court proceedings are being heard in English.

Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

hnews@herald.ie


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