A hotel worker who claims he saw the two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey leave the crime scene was drinking tea and joking with one of the defendants an hour later, a court in Mauritius has heard.
A defence lawyer claimed prosecution witness Raj Theekoy and Avinash Treebhoowoon were sharing a laugh in the canteen at the island's exclusive Legends Hotel in the wake of Michaela McAreavey's death in room 1025 of the beachside complex.
Mr Theekoy, who told police he went straight home after finishing work that day, rejected barrister Rama Valayden's account.
"I don't drink tea," he added.
Mr Valayden, lawyer for co-accused Sandip Moneea, insisted the witness was with Treebhoowoon.
"You were joking with him," he claimed.
The lawyer said the pair were actually having a joke about Moneea.
Mr Theekoy told police he saw the two men emerge from room 1025 shortly after hearing a woman screaming from inside.
He said he initially did not report it because he was scared and Moneea threatened him.
A lawyer for Treebhoowoon, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, later referred the witness to a statement he made at a previous court hearing when he said he had been in the canteen earlier on the day and, significantly, had been drinking tea.
Mr Theekoy replied: "I wanted to say I went to drink juice but I said tea to the court."
Fellow Legends employees Moneea, 42, and Treebhoowoon, 31, deny strangling the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte last January.
Mrs McAreavey's father-in-law, Brendan McAreavey, and sister-in- law, Claire McAreavey, were in court to watch the witness being cross-examined.
Her widower, John, is elsewhere on the island, unable to attend proceedings until he himself gives evidence for the prosecution.
On his first day in the witness box at the Supreme Court in Port Louis yesterday, Mr Theekoy said he and the two defendants were among employees who went to the scene of the crime after a commotion broke out when Mrs McAreavey's body was discovered.
The prosecution claim the tragic honeymooner momentarily left her husband beside a pool to fetch biscuits from their room when she walked in and caught the two defendants stealing.
Mr Theekoy was originally arrested as a suspect in the case and subsequently charged with conspiracy to murder. But that charge has since been dropped and he has been granted immunity from prosecution.
He is giving his evidence in his native tongue of French Creole.
A short time before the murder, Mr Theekoy claims he was cleaning room 1012 when the two defendants walked in.
He alleges that Treebhoowoon told Moneea a "Do Not Disturb" sign was still hanging outside the McAreaveys' room.
The room attendant told police that Moneea then called the room to see if there was an answer.
With no-one picking up, Mr Theekoy has said Moneea dispatched Treebhoowoon to clean the room.
Around 50 minutes later, Mr Theekoy claims he left the vicinity and went to see Treebhoowoon.
But when he got to room 1025 he noticed the door was shut and says shortly after he heard a woman cry out.
He claims the two co-workers then emerged. Instead of checking the room or raising the alarm, Mr Theekoy says he went and hid.
The attendant further claims that Moneea warned him to keep his mouth shout when he later confronted him about what he saw.