Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Michaela McAreavey murder trial to open

John McAreavey and his late wife Michaela McAreavey
Michaela McAreavey was found strangled in her hotel room

The trial of two men accused of strangling the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte as she honeymooned in Mauritius is set to begin today.

Michaela McAreavey, 27, was found dead in the bathtub of her and her husband John's luxury hotel room in the Indian Ocean island paradise last January - just two weeks after their wedding.

The teacher had momentarily left her husband at the pool of the five star Legends Hotel to fetch some biscuits for a cup of tea.

The case against hotel room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, and floor supervisor Sandip Moneea, 42, will be heard in the country's Supreme Court in the capital city Port Louis.

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

Security has been ramped up around the old French colonial court building for what is one the most high-profile criminal cases ever held on the island.

Mrs McAreavey's widower is expected to sit in the public gallery only yards from the defendants in the dock, having flown back to the island to give evidence for the prosecution.

The trial will start after a jury of nine is selected from a large panel of potential jurors.

The authorities have taken extra steps to ensure the defendants are transported swiftly into court from the high-security La Bastille prison in the nearby town of Phoenix.

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

Mrs McAreavey, from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was the only daughter of Mr Harte, the GAA boss who has steered his native county to three All Ireland championships.

Mr McAreavey, a talented Gaelic footballer from Co Down, has returned to Mauritius with members of his and the Harte family. Mr Harte is not attending.

Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah will preside over the trial, which is expected to last two weeks. Thirty witnesses are listed to give evidence.

The Legends Hotel, which has since been renamed the Lux Hotel, is in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, close to Mauritius's Grand Bay.

Mrs McAreavey taught religious education and the Irish language at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Her Requiem Mass was held close to her family home at St Malachy's chapel in Ballymacilroy, the same church she had married in a fortnight before she was killed.

Then-Irish president Mary McAleese was among dignitaries at a funeral attended by more than 3,000 people, as the newlywed was buried in her wedding dress.

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