Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Two cleared of murdering Michaela McAreavey on her honeymoon

Chaotic scenes sparked by 'not guilty' verdicts

Two men have been found not guilty of murdering Northern Ireland schoolteacher  Michaela McAreavey
Two men have been found not guilty of murdering Northern Ireland schoolteacher Michaela McAreavey
John and Michaela McAreavey outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Murder accused Sandip Moneea leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius at the Michaela Mc Areavey murder Trial in Port Louis Mauritius yesterday.Pic Steve Humphreys12th June 2012.
(From the left) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey are seen on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010.
John and Michaela McAreavey at the Giant's Causeway, in North Antrim
Resha Treebhoowoon, wife of Avinash Treebhoowoon accused of the murder of Michaela Mc Areavey leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius on the second day of the Murder Trial in Port Louis Mauritius yesterday.Pic Steve Humphreys23rd May 2012.
Michaela McAreavey was found strangled as she honeymooned in Mauritius
CCTV footage allegedly showing Michaela Harte and John McAreavey arguing
John McAreavey at the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius
Michaela and John McAreavey outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Michaela McAreavey's coffin is carried from her parents' home in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone
John and Michaela McAreavey on their honeymoon
Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte at his daughter Michaela's wedding to John McAreavey
John and Michaela McAreavey, pictured here on a visit to the Giant's Causeway. The couple were on honeymoon in Mauritius when Michaela was murdered.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
Former Tyrone Captain Peter Canavan (3rd left) joins members of the Errigal Ciaran GAA Club line the route as a hearse transporting the body of murdered Mauritius honeymooner Michaela McAreavey approaches in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
The body of Michaela McAreavey left George Best Belfast City airport in a hearse on Friday afternoon.
Michaela McAreavey's husband John, (foreground), waits for the hearse to leave Belfast city airport under police escort on the last leg of ehe journey home
Michaela's remains leave Victoria Hospital in Muiritius yesterday en route to the airport. 13th January 2011.
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
A hearse with the body of Michaela McAreavey, leaves George Best Belfast city airport. Friday January 14, 2011.
Michaela McAreavey on her wedding day
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day
Michaela Harte Far Right front in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended and later done her teaching placement..
Raj Theekoy
Suspect Avinash Treebhoowoon (29) is brought to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan.12, 2011. The room attendant has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Suspect Sandip Moneea (41) covers his face as he is escorted to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The floor supervisor has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Raj Theekoy (33), faces a conspiracy charge in connection with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
A distraught Mickey Harte with son Michael.
Michaela Harte (left) in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement.
Michaela Harte in with Throphy in St.Malachy's Primary School where Michaela attended and later done her teaching placement
Micheala Harte in fancy dress in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement..
A distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley
Michaela Harte after she had received a B.Ed at Queens University Belfast. (Picture taken in June 2006)
Balloons with the couple's names giving directions to St Malachy's Church outside Ballygwley where they recently got married
A distraught Mickey Harte at his family home near Ballygawley
Wedding flowers from the couple's recent marriage at St Malachy's Church outside Ballygawley
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 11/1/2011Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanA distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley today.Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte was strangled, Mauritius police have said.Michaela McAreavey, 27, was found dead at the Legends hotel in Mauritius where she was staying while on honeymoon.The 27-year-old Irish woman had married John McAreavey, a member of Down's gaelic football team, on 30 December. He is not a suspect.Police in Mauritius intend to question six people about the killing later on Tuesday.
A wedding sign and balloons telling wedding guests directions to the church near the family home in Ballygawley
Mickey Harte (centre), is comforted at the family home outside Ballygawley in Co Tyrone
(From the left) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey are seen on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey
Donegal Celtic and Cliftonville observe a minutes silence in respect of Michaela Harte at the game in west Belfast
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaella
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaela after the All Ireland Football Final 28/9/2003
Michaela Harte, daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Pic by Ian Magill. 23/3/10.Real Woman feature by Stephanie Bell.
Michaela Harte
Irish News handout of (left to right) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010. Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte was murdered in her hotel room, police in Mauritius confirmed today.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte with his son David and daughter Michaela after his side's win at Croke Park
Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte graduates at Queens University pictured with his daughter Machela who also graduatedand became a Bachelor in Education
Michaela Harte appearing on the television programme the Late Late Show.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates with his daughter Michaela and his son Matthew
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010.
Mickey Harte, pictured in 2006 with his daughter Michaela
Michaela McAreavey was found strangled in her hotel room

Two men acquitted of murdering honeymooner Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius last night expressed joy and relief as their lawyers insisted the real culprit could still be found.

Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon were mobbed by relatives and supporters in chaotic scenes both in and outside the Supreme Court in Port Louis sparked by their unanimous not guilty verdicts.

Fireworks were let off and chants of "justice, justice" rang out in the packed courtyard as the two former hotel workers emerged, followed soon after by their triumphant barristers carried shoulder high.

Amid the celebrations, lawyers Sanjeev Teeluckdharry and Rama Valayden launched a scathing attack on the Mauritian police team that had extracted a so-called murder confession from Treebhoowoon and demanded a fresh probe into the crime.

The tragic newlywed's widower John was not there to witness the loud and boisterous aftermath of the verdicts, having quickly walked out of court with family members as soon as they were read out.

Afterwards a statement from Mrs McAreavey's relatives said words could not express their desolation.

The nine jurors took just over two hours to find both men not guilty of murdering the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte in the island's luxury Legends hotel last January.

The 27-year-old teacher was found dead in the bathtub of her deluxe room shortly after lunching with her husband at a poolside restaurant.

Both defendants worked at the hotel at the time .

Outside court Treebhoowoon embraced his crying wife Reshma.

"My wife and I are very happy," he said.

He also expressed sympathy for the McAreaveys and Hartes.

"I am so sad about the lady," he said. "But I did not do this, I did not kill this lady. I am sure by god."

Moneea wept as he hugged his lawyer Rama Valayden.

"I am so happy to be back with my family," he said. "These past 18 months have been very, very hard."

He credited Mr Valayden, Mauritius's former attorney general, for delivering him from his nightmare.

"The lord Rama has come to save me," he shouted.

Shortly after the trial ended, the Harte and McAreavey families issued a brief statement conveying their bitter disappointment.

"After waiting eighteen months in search of justice for Michaela and following the endurance of seven harrowing weeks of this trial, there are no words which can describe the sense of devastation and desolation now felt by both families," the statement read.

The six men and three women of the jury retired to consider their verdicts after a four hour 15 minute address by judge Prithviraj Fecknah, who directed them on the law and relevant issues to consider during deliberations.

The defence lawyers had insisted the confession statement signed by Treebhoowoon three days after the crime was a fabrication that had been extracted by police brutality.

The Legends room cleaner claimed he had been beaten repeatedly, whipped on the soles of his feet, grabbed in the groin and been stripped naked before his head was plunged into water so many times he vomited blood.

Mr Valayden compared the case to past mis-carriages of justice involving Irish people.

"This is what happens when we rush to find justice, like it was in the Birmingham six, like it was in the Guilford four," he said.

"Wherever in the world, when we rush to try to find justice we always fail."

He claimed the Mauritian police's major crime investigation team (MCIT) had ignored vital evidence that would have identified the real killer in their haste to find someone to blame quickly.

The lawyer demanded the MCIT be disbanded and a new unit take on a fresh investigation.

"My message to the McAreavey family is: don't despair," he said.

"We will find the real guilty persons and I can promise to the Irish nation that I as Rama Valayden, and my friend Mr Sanjeev (Teeluckdharry) will join me, we will continue our effort in order to find the guilty person."

As he had done during the trial, he highlighted that four finger prints belonging to neither the two accused or the McAreaveys were found in the room where the honeymooner was strangled.

He also noted that unknown DNA traces had been recovered on her body.

"All our friends in Ireland let me tell them again we promise them we will not leave any stone unturned in order to reopen the inquiry, have the MCIT disbanded and get a new team to inquire so that the truth can prevail."

Mr Teeluckdharry echoed his counterpart's sentiments.

"We will ask the authorities to re-open this inquiry because the real culprit is still not caught," he said.

Treebhoowoon, 32, from Plaine de Roches, worked as a room attendant at Legends while Moneea, 43, from Petit Raffray, was his floor supervisor.

They were arrested at the hotel the day after the murder.

The high-profile case was originally listed to run nine days but the verdict came in its eighth week.

Noisy jubilation and silent despair

By David Young in Port Louis, Mauritius

The guards could hardly shield their anger, bundling throngs of celebrating supporters aside they escorted their erstwhile prisoners across the courtyard one last time.

The snarling officers burst through the jubilant crowds like a human battering ram, whisking Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea to the back of the Supreme Court building at almost a sprint.

But they could not hold their captives any longer.

Moments later the pair walked back into the paved yard on their own, as free men.

The stony expressions they had worn for the previous eight weeks as they were marched in handcuffs back and forth to court were gone. In their stead, faces of sheer elation as they were swept up in the clamour.

"Justice, justice," the crowds chanted in unison in jubilant scenes not unlike those that would greet the fall of a dictator.

Fireworks were set off at the gates of the old colonial court buildings as some showed they had packed for this result.

Emotion had overwhelmed the defendants 10 minutes earlier inside a tension-wracked Courtroom 5 when the verdicts were read out one by one.

Treebhoowoon threw his hands to the heavens as the jury foreman delivered the words he had prayed for - "Not guilty".

Sections of the public gallery, swollen to proportions not yet witnessed in the always-packed court, erupted in response, as the former hotel cleaner crumpled and wept in the dock.

Judge Prithviraj Fecknah called for order before the jurors' representative could reveal the second verdict.

"Not guilty."

Moneea also broke down. He turned to his co-accused and they embraced, as the relatives of both men did likewise in the packed benches to their right.

The only row that remained seated was the one where John McAreavey and his family witnessed the outcome they had feared.

The widower, his face ashen, dropped his head as the result of the jurors' deliberations reverberated.

His sister Claire, father Brendan and brother-in-law Mark Harte looked just as devastated.

Theirs, it seemed, was the only part of the chaotic court that remained quiet.

It was clear they had no intention of lingering in this febrile atmosphere. With solemn dignity, they rose and walked at pace out of the courtroom.

The two experienced Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives who had sat by their side through large parts of the case were never more needed as the family tried to navigate a path out and away. The black skies that greeted them outside surely reflected their thoughts.

Proceedings inside had still not run their course.

After the verdicts Judge Fecknah addressed the weeping defendants in their native Creole.

"You were charged with the offence of murder," he said.

"You were tried by the jury, you were found to be not guilty for the offence of murder. You are free."

The judge had thanked everyone involved with the case before the jury had retired. As the case formally concluded he expressed his appreciation to the lawyers once again.

"It's been a long and a very taxing trial," he acknowledged.

Chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan had paced the court as the verdicts approached, his face taut with apprehension.

In his final remarks to the court he cut the pose of an utterly deflated man.

"I conducted this trial to the best of my ability," he said, almost apologetically, as his boss, Director of Public Prosecutions Satyajit Boolell, looked on from an extra seat which had been provided for him on the last day.

"The decision of the jury is final and I have to accept that decision in this case."

Treebhoowoon's lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, as is his wont, suggested divine intervention.

"Vox populi, vox Dei," he declared, employing Latin to insist the voice of the people was the voice of God.

Outside, having been carried shoulder high, he again reached for a religious metaphor.

"I was confident that the tribunal of the people, the jurors, would reach the correct decision," he said.

"In my closing speech, I said after eight weeks of legal pilgrimage they have been able to reach the wuthering heights.

"They have been able to reach the mountain top. From there there was no possibility of them failing to come to a verdict of not guilty."

Moneea's wife Reka, his most vocal supporter throughout the trial, said she would light a candle in Port Louis's Catholic cathedral for Mrs McAreavey.

"I will continue to pray for Michaela," she said.

"Michaela may your soul rest in peace and the true culprit will be behind the cell."

But her husband's lawyer, the charismatic former politician Rama Valayden, cursed the police for not having caught the real offender in the first instance.

"If the police had not done their job in a sloppy way we would have found the real assailant," he said.

Around 250 people had crammed into the claustrophobic court as the verdicts were announced just after 6pm.

Bursting outside they made the noise of 10 times that number.

Five minutes ahead of them had walked Mr McAreavey and his family - in silent despair.

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz