Mauritius murder: Jury to consider verdict

2012-07-12 14:52
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Port Louis - A judge in Mauritius began summing up Thursday in one of the most high profile court cases ever seen on the island - the murder of two men accused of strangling an Irish honeymooner.

Michela McAreavey, the daughter of a leading Irish sports personality, was strangled in January 2011 and her body dumped in the bathtub of her luxury hotel room in the north of the Indian Ocean island.

The two accused, Avinash Treebhowoon, 31, and Sandip Mooneea, 42, former workers at the top-end Legends beach resort, deny the charges. They face decades in jail if found guilty.

With tourism making up more than a quarter of the economy of the white-beach and palm-fringed island, the murder of McAreavey has made headlines at home and abroad.

However, Judge Prithviraj Fekna told the nine-member jury to ignore the wider implications of the trial and focus only on evidence presented in court.

"You have been told that this will have an international ramification and will affect the image of Mauritius - counsel appealed you to send the right image," Fekna told jurors, following eight weeks of testimony.

"This is not your role. You must not allow yourself to be influenced by this, you are not politicians, you have to base yourself on what has happened."

McAreavey, 27, a County Tyrone school teacher and the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, was discovered murdered in the bath by her distraught husband John McAreavey.

Barbaric murder

Defence lawyers have urged the jurors to acquit their clients, while the prosecution have said the accused are guilty of "barbaric murder".

Critics say a slapdash approach by police investigators may have jeopardised key forensic evidence, but the judge told the jury to focus on the two accused and not how the police have handled the case.

"A lot has been said on police amateurism and that they could not carry out the inquiry properly," Fekna added.

"The police is not on trial in the present case - the two accused parties are accused number one [Treebhowoon] and accused number two [Mooneea]."

The jury was expected to retire to deliberate their decision later on Thursday. A majority verdict is required.

Mauritius, a volcanic island surrounded by coral reefs and lagoons, is best known for top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination, with nearly one million tourists a year, employing directly or indirectly around 100 000 people.

Read more on:    mauritius  |  southern africa

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