Jury visits scene of McAreavey killing

Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 01:00

THE JURY of the Michaela McAreavey murder trial in Mauritius yesterday visited the hotel where the Irish woman was killed last year.

The nine jurors, accompanied by Judge Prithviraj Fecknah as well as prosecution and defence lawyers, were shown the room where the Co Tyrone teacher’s body was found and other locations mentioned in evidence at the trial.

The two defendants, Avinash Treebhoowoon (31) and Sandip Moneea (42), also attended the site visit.

Later in the day when the proceedings resumed at the criminal court in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, it was confirmed that a bellboy who was one of the first people to reach room 1025 after the killing would not give evidence because the authorities had been unable to trace him.

Mehdi Manrakhan, the lead prosecution barrister, said he was unable to track down Rajiv Bhujun, a former bellboy at Legends. “We are given to understand that he has taken up employment on a cruise ship and we are not in a position to reach him and have him tendered for cross-examination,” he said.

John McAreavey has told the trial he was unable to access his room when he went to look for his wife and so walked to reception to get a new key.

Staff sent Mr Bhujun back with him to room 1025 to open the door. Mr Bhujun told police he did not enter but that, moments later, he heard Mr McAreavey scream and rushed back to see Mr McAreavey’s wife lying motionless on the floor. Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, for Mr Treebhoowoon, then asked the court if the bellboy’s statements could be admitted as evidence, referring to him as “the first independent witness to be present on the locus”. Mr Manrakhan objected to the statements being admitted and then queried the defence barrister’s choice of words.

“I wish to put it on record that my friend refers to Mr Bhujun as the first independent witness. I don’t know what he means by this – John McAreavey is also an independent witness in this case,” he said. Mr Teeluckdharry said he meant the bellboy had no connection with the case. The judge said it was appropriate to describe Mr Bhujun as one of the first witnesses on the scene.

Mr Manrakhan then confirmed that he would be calling no further witnesses and formally closed the prosecution case.

Before the court adjourned for the day, the jury was sent out briefly to allow lawyers discuss issues related to the list of witnesses Mr Teeluckdharry proposes to call in the coming days.

The judge told jurors that today would be set aside for legal argument and their presence would not be required until tomorrow.

Earlier, during the visit to the scene of the crime, security was tight at Lux Hotel, formerly Legends, for yesterday’s exercise. Police patrolled the main gate and the shoreline throughout the morning and journalists were denied access to the complex.

During the 90-minute visit, the six men and three women of the jury were shown the since-renumbered room 1025, where Ms McAreavey’s body was found on January 10th last year.