Belfast Telegraph

We'll never forget Michaela or give up fight for justice

By Gail Walker

Whatever it was, the fiasco at Port Louis Supreme Court didn't look like justice. It didn't sound like justice. It didn't feel like justice. That's because it wasn't justice. Not even close. We may not know much about these big concepts in our own vexatious island - ordinary people that is, who most often are at the butt-end of the legal system. And we may not understand the niceties of legal detail at home or abroad. Those clever lawyers and judges seem to understand everything we can't. But we do still have our sense of smell.

We can smell the stink a mile off.

We know justice doesn't come with a packed court laughing at smart cracks from a defence lawyer. We know it doesn't come with fireworks or with crowds gloating at a verdict reached after eight weeks of blackest comedy followed by a whole two hours of- I'm sure - careful deliberation by a jury.

We also know it doesn't come by trashing the reputation of the victim and smearing the grieving widower.

The trial of two Mauritian hotel workers only reopened the wounds for the Hartes and McAreaveys.

Out of a Kafkaesque nightmare, they were the only people to emerge with credit. Their dignified but pointed exit from the court was in contrast to a trial where the magazine Cosmopolitan was presented as a "sex book" and defence attorneys rambled about their support for Sinn Fein and the Irish people's anti-imperial struggle.

Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea were found not guilty. We accept that. We also accept that the police investigation was seriously flawed.

Whatever the face-saving assurances of the Mauritian Legal Forum, the Hartes and McAreaveys must now accept the prospect that Michaela's killers will never be brought to justice. The chance has gone. The stench remains.

Now a paper in that country has published photographs of the murder scene including pictures of Michaela McAreavey's body. It couldn't get more grotesque.

Many of us feel anger at the scenes in Port Louis, but our thoughts should be with the families as they return home to Northern Ireland, as John McAreavey returns to the lonely house he and Michaela bought in Lawrencetown, near Banbridge.

When Michaela was murdered in January last year, the Hartes and McAreaveys behaved with massive dignity and restraint. Amid the emotional devastation, they never lost sight of their girl: the young teacher beloved of her pupils, a life filled with promise, her genuine goodness and simplicity.

We were all moved by their loss. The horror and the pity were tangible. We were united in grief. The tragedy drew out of us all a tremendous stoicism and fellow feeling. Little did we know the obscenities heading our way. Over the last two months we have had the nauseating sight of Michaela's reputation being trampled into the mud. It was like watching her being murdered again. Lies, smears, innuendo. None of that was justice and this is what is not acceptable. The families may not be able to speak, out of dignity, out of hurt, but we can say something about the dubious, stomach churning events in Port Louis. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said: "I noted the words of the Prime Minister [of Mauritius] that justice will be done and justice will be seen to be done - and clearly it hasn't been done ... "

Martin McGuinness has voiced similar concerns.

But let's hope that we're not talking political formalities and life going on as normal. Following the travesty of the trial and now those sickening pictures, it is time for Ireland - north, south and, yes, the British Government - to do something to reflect the anger of ordinary people here.

Maybe John McAreavey should up sticks, move to Mauritius, build a house beside the hotel and tell everyone going through its gates that his beautiful young bride of just 12 days was murdered inside. But that's not real life, is it? That's the way to drive yourself mad with grief and anger ... and injustice. From beginning to end, the whole affair has stunk to Heaven.

It isn't enough for the Mauritian PM to promise that justice will be done and for the Director of Public Prosecutions in Mauritius to describe the acquittal as "unexpected".

Well, let's pledge ourselves to demonstrate to the legal system on that other island just what the word "unexpected" actually means. We owe it to the families in our midst to rally once again. We must make sure that justice befalls the legal system which has so publicly let down a murdered girl, a guest in that place.

We must make sure that the mockery of Port Louis is not the final word.

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