Hotel workers cleared over bride’s murder

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THE family of tragic honeymooner Michaela McAreavey have said words could not express their desolation, after the Mauritian authorities failed to convict anyone of her murder.

After an eight-week trial, jurors took just over two hours to find hotel workers Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon not guilty of killing the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte in the island’s luxury Legends hotel last January.

Shortly after the trial ended in chaotic scenes as supporters of the defendants released fireworks at the court, the Harte and McAreavey families issued a brief statement.

“After waiting 18 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.

The six men and three women of the jury retired to consider their verdicts after a four-hour 15-minute address by judge Prithviraj Fecknah.

Defence lawyers Rama Valayden and Sanjeev Teeluckdharry had insisted the confession statement signed by Treebhoowoon three days after the crime was a fabrication that had been extracted by police brutality.

The Legends room cleaner claimed he had been beaten repeatedly, whipped on the soles of his feet, grabbed in the groin and been stripped naked before his head was plunged into water so many times he vomited blood.

Mr Valayden, Mauritius’s former attorney general, compared the case to past miscarriages of justice involving Irish people.

“This is what happens when we rush to find justice, like it was in the Birmingham six, like it was in the Guildford four,” he said.

“Wherever in the world, when we rush to try to find justice we always fail.”

He claimed the Mauritian police’s major crime investigation team (MCIT) had ignored vital evidence that would have identified the real killer in their haste to find someone to blame quickly.

The lawyer demanded the MCIT be disbanded and a new unit take on a fresh investigation.

“My message to the McAreavey family is: don’t despair,” he said. “We will find the real guilty persons and I can promise to the Irish nation that I as Rama Valayden, and my friend Mr Sanjeev will join me, we will continue our effort in order to find the guilty person.”

As he had done during the trial, he highlighted that four finger prints belonging to neither the two accused nor the McAreaveys were found in the room where the honeymooner was strangled.

He also noted that unknown DNA traces had been recovered on her body.

“All our friends in Ireland let me tell them again we promise them we will not leave any stone unturned in order to reopen the inquiry, have the MCIT disbanded and get a new team to inquire so that the truth can prevail.”

Mr Teeluckdharry echoed his counterpart’s sentiments.

“We will ask the authorities to re-open this inquiry because the real culprit is still not caught,” he said.

Treebhoowoon, 32, from Plaine de Roches, worked as a room attendant at Legends while Moneea, 43, from Petit Raffray, was his floor supervisor.

They were arrested at the hotel the day after the murder.

The high-profile case was originally listed to run nine days but the verdict came in its eighth week.

Three other hotel workers originally charged in connection with Michaela McAreavey’s murder could hardly have had more varied experiences since.

One turned key witness for the prosecution, another is suing the police for more than £400,000 and the third is facing court proceedings on a lesser charge.

The latter, Dassen Naraynen, a former security guard at the Legends hotel, has also alleged he was the victim of police brutality. He denies he was involved with what happened to Mrs McAreavey in Room 1025.