Outrage as Mauritius newspaper publishes Michaela McAreavey crime scene photographs
Hunt on for culprit after nightmare picture leak
Mauritian police are facing fresh questions about how graphic photographs of Michaela McAreavey's body were leaked to a local newspaper.
The murdered honeymooner's family reacted with horror yesterday when it emerged that a Sunday paper had published a disturbing picture of her lifeless body across its front page.
Inside there were more pictures, including close-ups of marks on Michaela's neck.
A spokesman for the McAreavey and Harte families said: "They are in shock as to how far this has gone." Defence lawyers for the two hotel workers cleared of her murder last week insisted the images had not been leaked by their camp.
But the Mauritian police and the newspaper that published the photos -- the Mauritian 'Sunday Times' -- remained silent on the controversy.
The Republic's prime minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Stormont's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the publication.
Mr McGuinness said the photographs had come from within the Mauritian system.
"Just when it seems the system in Mauritius cannot heap anymore pain and anguish on to the McAreavey and Harte families, a local newspaper publishes pictures of Michaela's body," he said.
"The decision of the newspaper in Mauritius to publish crime scene photographs, including pictures of Michaela's body, is an outrageous abuse that cannot be justified in anyway," he said.
"People in Mauritius need to realise that the eyes of the international community are firmly focused on their country and their justice system in the wake of the brutal murder of Michaela and the absolute failure to deliver justice for John McAreavey and the rest of family.
"This case will not simply go away as some in Mauritius seem to hope. I can assure the Mauritian authorities that people in Ireland will continue to keep a focus on this case until justice is done."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded the publication "a gross affront to human dignity" and said the Irish government would be lodging a formal complaint with the Mauritian government.
The Mauritian 'Sunday Times', a paper with no connection to any British or Irish company, used a large picture of Michaela's body in what they dubbed a front-page "picture exclusive".
Inside the newspaper there was a full page of more images, including close-ups of Michaela's scratched and bruised neck.
The black-and-white crime scene pictures included:
- An almost full-length image of Michaela, her eyes closed, wearing her bikini and a skirt.
- A close-up of the injuries on her neck.
- A photograph of the empty bathtub where she was found
A photograph showing the disarray in the McAreaveys' hotel room.
Bizarrely, while her bikini top is blacked out on the inside pages, there is no effort to disguise her injuries, and the same picture on the front page is not blacked out.
The distressing images are accompanied by a column entitled: 'Opinion -- At large, Michaela I feel sorry for you'.
It mentions how her killer is still at large, criticises the prime minister, Navin Ramgoolam, and laments the failure of the police to bring the murderer to justice.
The Harte and McAreavey families reacted furiously to the publication last night.
They called on Mauritian authorities to ensure "insensitive reporting" by newspapers within its jurisdiction does not further exacerbate the "violation of Michaela and the hurt to John".
"As the families struggle to come to terms with the result from the trial, this reprehensible and repugnant action by this newspaper is not only insensitive to their grief but it marks another low in the treatment of John, the two families and the dignity of Michaela," the statement added.
A spokesman for the Harte and McAreavey families said they had not considered any action against the newspaper just yet.
"Nobody is even in that mindset at the minute. They are kind of in shock about how far this has gone," he said.
Their Mauritian lawyer, Dick Su Wa, called the publication of the pictures "scandalous", saying he had "no idea" how such pictures could have been leaked.
"I am going to contact the police commissioner and the DPP to ensure there is a full investigation into the matter," he said.
It is understood that the parties to have been in possession of the sensitive pictures include the police, the defence and prosecution teams, the junior counsels on both sides, and possibly former lawyers for both of the accused men.
The Mauritian police force could not put forward a spokesperson when contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday, as their press office was closed.
But defence lawyers for the two hotel workers acquitted of her murder, Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, told the Irish Independent that their respective teams had no involvement in passing the images to the newspaper.
Mr Treebhoowoon's defence lawyer, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, said that it could not have been anyone from his team who leaked the photographs.
He said: "As far as I am concerned, all of the photographs we have been given are in my possession. I do not give sensitive materials like that to journalists. It is most unethical and irresponsible for a journalist to publish such things."
Mr Moneea's lawyer, Rama Valayden, also denied the possibility the pictures could have been leaked from his team.
"I don't know where they could have come from," he said.
"I am ashamed such a thing has appeared in a newspaper."
Mr Kenny expressed his disgust at the publication and pledged to make a formal complaint to the Mauritian government.
"The publication of these images represents an appalling invasion of privacy and is a gross affront to human dignity.
"There are issues of fundamental human rights in question in relation to this deeply upsetting matter."
Meanwhile last night, the Republic of Ireland's deputy prime minister, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he would be meeting the Republic's Ambassador to Mauritius this morning and the Irish Government was determined to make a strong protest to the authorities there.
"I was shocked to learn of the publication today by a Mauritian newspaper of images relating to the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
"Our Ambassador to Mauritius, Brendan McMahon, is currently in Ireland, and I will be meeting with him tomorrow morning to discuss this matter and to agree how to bring our concerns to the attention of the authorities in Mauritius at the highest levels and in the most effective way possible.
"This is a deeply distressing development for the families of Michaela and John and demonstrates a total lack of respect for their feelings and rights," he added.