Belfast Telegraph

Pre-trial hearing into Michaela’s murder delayed

By Eimear Ni Bhraonain

The preliminary inquiry into honeymooner Michaela Harte's murder in Mauritius has yet to hear evidence from a single witness in the case.

Raj Theekoy, the prosecution's star witness, who will testify against the two men accused of Michaela Harte's murder, appeared in court in Mapou yesterday.

The hotel cleaner was previously charged with conspiracy to commit murder — but the charge against him was dropped after he agreed to give evidence against Avinash Treebhowon (30) and Sandip Moneea (41).

One of the chief investigators into Michaela Harte's murder in Mauritius, Det Insp Ranjit Jonkhoo, appeared in court to give evidence for the prosecution. However, all the witnesses were asked to return on Monday afternoon.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Det Insp Jonkhoo reiterated that the CCTV from the Legends Hotel has been viewed by the police, but none of it was deemed relevant to the prosecution's case.

Yesterday, there were outbursts in the courtroom from defence and prosecution lawyers, as the hearing descended into a circus because of the presence of the Mauritian and international media.

Senior magistrate Sheila Bonomally had to intervene several times to admonish both the prosecution and the defence counsels. “You shouldn't interrupt at this stage — you wait for your turn,” the magistrate retorted to the counsel for the State during the sitting.

She also lashed the defence counsel for changing his motion several times — and for his failure to use points of law.

Defence counsel for the accused are seeking to have Ms Bonomally removed from hearing the preliminary inquiry on the grounds that their clients cannot be given a fair and impartial hearing because the magistrate refused bail to one accused, Treebhowon, but not the other, Moneea.

However, in a ruling earlier this week, Ms Bonomally rejected the defence counsel motion to have her removed and also their request to cross-examine John McAreavey at the preliminary inquiry.

In Mauritius a preliminary inquiry decides if there is enough evidence to send the accused men forward for trial for murder. They relate to murder and manslaughter cases only.

Initially, the preliminary inquiry was expected to last three days, however, it has been delayed by defence lawyers.

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