Lawyers clash at McAreavey trial

Fri, May 25, 2012, 01:00

Lawyers clashed at the trial of two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey after defence counsel attempted to delve into the private lives of her and her husband John.

A defence lawyer’s bid to question a police officer about a sex guide book found in the Mauritius hotel room where the daughter of Tyrone football boss Mickey Harte was strangled was met with fury by the prosecution, with the case adjourned for a period.

Principal state counsel Mehdi Manrakhan reacted angrily when Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, representing accused Avinash Treebhoowoon, asked the officer if the book – The Ultimate Sex Guide - contained material of a violent nature.

“I object in the strongest possible terms,” Mr Manrakhan said as legal colleagues slammed papers on the benches in outrage.

Mr Teeluckdharry earlier insisted the book went to “the crux of the defence’s case”.

“We are trying to unveil the truth,” said the barrister after Mr Manrakhan’s intervention.

Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah upheld the objections of the prosecution, telling Mr Teeluckdharry that such questions should not be directed at the witness - police sergeant Govinder Ramasawmy - as he had already told the court he had not examined the book’s contents.

Sgt Ramasawmy told the court he gave the book to Mr McAreavey three days after his wife was killed, along with 12 other possessions from their room in the luxury hotel. These included a laptop, two iPhones and other personal items.

Mrs McAreavey’s brother Mark Harte looked at the floor as her sister-in-law Claire watched the heated exchanges in a packed and humid courtroom in Port Louis.

John McAreavey, who has returned to the island for the trial, was unable to attend proceedings as he is due to be called as a prosecution witness.

Mr Treebhoowoon (30), and Sandip Moneea (42), deny the premeditated murder of the 27-year-old teacher from Co Tyrone.

Mrs McAreavey was found dead in her hotel room shortly after lunching with her husband by the pool. The prosecution claim she returned to her room to fetch biscuits for her tea and caught the accused stealing in her room.Defence counsel for Avinash Treebhoowon, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, talks to the media as he leaves the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius today. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Police inspector Sunilduth Nucchedy began giving his evidence to the court this afternoon before proceedings were closed for the week.

The officer described the crime scene photographs taken in the room. These included pictures of Mrs McAreavey’s body. Mr Nucchedy said bruise and scratch marks were clearly visible on her neck and face.

A jury of nine - six men and three women - is hearing the case and almost 50 witnesses are listed to give evidence.

The case against Mr Treebhoowoon, from Plaine des Roches, and Mr Moneea, from Petit Raffray, was scheduled to last two weeks but is set to go on for much longer with Judge Fecknah yesterday warning that a “lengthy trial” was ahead.

Mrs McAreavey, from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was the only daughter of Mickey Harte, the GAA boss who steered his native county to three All Ireland championships.

The Legends Hotel, which has since been renamed the Lux Hotel, is in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, close to Mauritius’s Grand Baie.

Mrs McAreavey taught religious education and the Irish language at St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Her Requiem Mass was held close to her family home at St Malachy’s chapel in Ballymacilroy - the same church in which she had married a fortnight before she was killed. She was buried in her wedding dress.