Two cleared of Michaela murder
Two men acquitted of murdering honeymooner Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius have expressed joy and relief as their lawyers insisted the real culprit could still be found.
Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon were mobbed by relatives and supporters in chaotic scenes both in and outside the Supreme Court in Port Louis sparked by their unanimous not guilty verdicts.
Fireworks were let off and chants of "justice, justice" rang out in the packed courtyard as the two former hotel workers emerged, followed soon after by their triumphant barristers carried shoulder high.
Amid the celebrations, lawyers Sanjeev Teeluckdharry and Rama Valayden launched a scathing attack on the Mauritian police team that had extracted a so-called murder confession from Treebhoowoon and demanded a fresh probe into the crime.
The tragic newlywed's widower John was not there to witness the loud and boisterous aftermath of the verdicts, having quickly walked out of court with family members as soon as they were read out. Afterwards a statement from Mrs McAreavey's relatives said words could not express their desolation.
The nine jurors took just over two hours to find both men not guilty of murdering the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte in the island's luxury Legends hotel last January.
The 27-year-old teacher was found dead in the bathtub of her deluxe room shortly after lunching with her husband at a poolside restaurant. Both defendants worked at the hotel at the time .
Outside court Treebhoowoon embraced his crying wife Reshma. "My wife and I are very happy," he said. He also expressed sympathy for the McAreaveys and Hartes. "I am so sad about the lady," he said. "But I did not do this, I did not kill this lady. I am sure by God."
Moneea wept as he hugged his lawyer Rama Valayden. "I am so happy to be back with my family," he said. "These past 18 months have been very, very hard." He credited Mr Valayden, Mauritius's former attorney general, for delivering him from his nightmare. "The lord Rama has come to save me," he shouted.
Shortly after the trial ended, the Harte and McAreavey families issued a brief statement conveying their bitter disappointment. "After waiting eighteen months in search of justice for Michaela and following the endurance of seven harrowing weeks of this trial, there are no words which can describe the sense of devastation and desolation now felt by both families," the statement read.