Two hotel workers cleared of Michaela McAreavey murder
THE FOREMAN of the jury gave a solemn nod. They had reached a verdict. Suddenly, it felt as if the air had been sucked out of the crammed, humid courtroom. Two hundred people fell silent.
The McAreavey and Harte families sat in the front row, the accreted strains and stresses of the eight-week trial inscribed on their faces, and locked their gaze on the jury box.
“Not guilty,” declared the foreman.
And then a second time: “Not guilty.”
John McAreavey shook his head and stared at the floor. Beside him, his sister Claire shut her eyes. All around them, there was pandemonium.
After one of the longest and most closely scrutinised criminal trials to take place in Mauritius, hotel workers Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea were acquitted, unanimously, of murdering Michaela McAreavey, the 27-year-old teacher from Co Tyrone, during her honeymoon in January 2011 with her husband, John. It took the jury of six men and three women two hours to reach its decision.
As Judge Prithviraj Fecknah told the two men they were now free, John McAreavey – accompanied by Claire, his father Brendan and brother-in-law Mark Harte – were already making for the door.
Under Mauritian law, Mr Treebhoowoon and Mr Moneea cannot be retried for the offence of murder, but police said they would reopen the inquiry if instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“If there is any need to reopen a further inquiry, the police would do that,” said Insp Ranjit Singh Jokhoo, one of the lead detectives on the investigation.
The prosecution had claimed the two former employees of Legends Hotel murdered Ms McAreavey, the daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, after she returned to her room to collect biscuits, and found them stealing.
Mr Treebhoowoon (32) from Plaine de Roches, worked as a room attendant at Legends, while Mr Moneea (43) from Petit Raffray was his floor supervisor. They were arrested at the hotel the day after the murder.
A brief statement issued on behalf of the McAreavey and Harte families said there were “no words which can describe the sense of devastation and desolation” they felt after the verdict.
As darkness fell on the old colonial-era courthouse in the heart of Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, fireworks were let off and chants of “justice, justice” rang out.
In a chaotic melee outside court, Mr Treebhoowoon embraced his crying wife Reshma. “My wife and I are very happy,” he said. “I am so sad about the lady, but I did not do this. I did not kill this lady. I am sure by god.”