Belfast Telegraph

Chaos in court as Mauritius newspaper editor falls ill during Michaela McAreavey photo case

By Colm Kelpie

The newspaper editor arrested in connection with the publication of graphic crime-scene photos of Michaela McAreavey's body remained in hospital last night after his dramatic collapse in court.

In the wake of the courtroom drama -- which came when Imran Hosany became ill and was taken to hospital while waiting to be formally charged -- a senior Mauritian diplomat last night said he believed there would be a new murder trial.

Mohamed Iqbal Latona, acting High Commissioner at the Mauritian embassy in London, told the Irish Independent that Mauritian police would attempt to obtain new evidence to solve the honeymooner's murder.

Mr Latona, who met Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday, said the country's Prime Minister, Navin Ramgoolam, was determined to do "whatever is possible" to bring the killers to justice.

Earlier, Imran Hosany was waiting to be formally charged when he took ill and was taken to hospital, prompting chaotic scenes.

His lawyer, Akil Bissessur, said it was not clear when Mr Hosany would be discharged from hospital.

He said the publication of the photos was "morally wrong", but no criminal offence was committed, and he accused the Irish Government and media of pressurising the Mauritian government into taking action against his client.

"I lived in England for about nine or 10 years," Mr Bissessur said. "There are pictures of dead people, of corpses in the newspapers all the time. We have pressures from the Irish Government and the Irish media to the Mauritian government to take destructive action against a reporter who was merely doing his job.

"I don't see the sense in it. And frankly, none of the barristers in Mauritius see the sense in it. It is just political pressure on my client."

Michaela was strangled in her hotel room and her body was discovered in the bathtub by her husband, John.

Two men charged with the killing, Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, were acquitted last week.

Three days later, the Mauritian 'Sunday Times' splashed the black-and-white photos of her body across the front and inside pages.

Mr Hosany, who is both editor and director general of the Mauritian 'Sunday Times', was facing a charge of outrage against public and religious morality over the publication of the graphic crime-scene photos showing Mrs McAreavey's lifeless body.

He is pleading not guilty. A police spokesman confirmed Mr Hosany took ill before he was formally charged before the court.

He was brought to Dr A Gaffoor Jeetoo Hospital, where he remained in a stable condition last night.

"He is a family man with a clean criminal record. He is a journalist of some 25 years' reckoning," Mr Bissessur said.

"We all know that the police messed up in their inquiries into the Michaela Harte murder, which is why they just laid the charge on two innocent people.

"So, now to cover up for all their mistakes, they are just charging innocent people."

Meanwhile, Mr Latona described his meeting with Mr McGuinness yesterday as being "very positive".

"The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will institute a judicial inquiry and the Commission of Police will try and secure new evidence so that we can move this case forward," he said.

Asked if there could be a new trial, he said: "This has happened many times in Mauritius, where people are acquitted and then new evidence is found. On that basis, from experience, I would say 'yes'."

"If we have new evidence against other people, then of course they have to be prosecuted."

But he could not say whether the two men acquitted could be retried.

Mr McGuinness said he also had been assured a new trial was possible.

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin QC is to examine papers from the trial. "We do not have anything yet but we are going to have a look at them and talk to the authorities over there. They have been very open about things, they are quite keen for us to be on board," a spokesman said.

Prior to the meeting Mr McGuinness, Mr Latona said he disagreed with the verdict of the jury in the murder trial.

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