Families reject attempt to 'denigrate' Michaela

Mon, May 28, 2012, 01:00

THE FAMILIES of John McAreavey and his late wife, Michaela, have said they are distressed and dismayed at any attempt to “denigrate” the memory of Mrs McAreavey, the 27-year-old Co Tyrone teacher killed in Mauritius last year.

The trial began last week of two hotel workers accused of murdering Mrs McAreavey, the daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, while she was on honeymoon on the Indian Ocean island in January last year.

A heated row broke out between the two legal teams at the trial on Friday when a lawyer for one of the accused attempted to delve into the newlywed couple’s private life.

In a statement last night, a spokesman for the McAreavey and Harte families said: “Obviously, both families are very distressed and dismayed at any attempt to denigrate the memory of Michaela.

“However, they would like to thank the many family, friends and the wider public for their continued support and prayers as they endure this ordeal,” the spokesman added. “They would particularly ask that people continue to pray so that John may be granted the necessary strength to get through the very difficult and painful days ahead.”

The prosecution argues that Mrs McAreavey was strangled by two Legends Hotel employees, Avinash Treebhoowon (30) and Sandeep Moneea (42), after she returned to her room to collect biscuits and caught them stealing. The two men deny any involvement in her death.

John McAreavey is listed as a prosecution witness at the trial, which began in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, last week. He was due to give evidence today, but slow progress last week means he will not take the stand until the end of this week at the earliest.

Today, the criminal court will hear evidence from Susan Woodroffe, a forensic scientist from Cellmark Forensic Services in Oxfordshire, England. Judge Prithviraj Fecknah has indicated a full day will be put aside for Ms Woodroffe’s evidence.

In court on Friday, state counsel Mehdi Manrakhan reacted furiously when Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, representing Mr Treebhoowoon, questioned a police officer over his inspection of personal belongings handed back to Mr McAreavey after his wife’s death. Mr Teeluckdharry, the lead defence lawyer, questioned a policeman about items belonging to the couple, including a laptop, two iPhones, a sex guidebook and other items of a personal nature.

In cross-examination, Mr Teeluckdharry asked whether an effort had been made by police to examine the phones and the websites viewed through the laptop.

This sparked a fraught exchange with Mr Manrakhan, whose objection was upheld by Judge Fecknah.

In response to questioning from Mr Teeluckdharry, the officer said he had not looked through the book. Mr Teeluckdharry then pressed him twice about what may have been in the book, prompting Mr Manrakhan to say, “I object in the strongest possible terms.”

The judge upheld the objections, telling Mr Teeluckdharry that such questions should not be directed at the witness – Sgt Govinder Ramasawmy – as he had already told the court he had not examined the book’s contents.