Mauritius honeymoon murder trial to start

2012-05-21 08:52

Port Louis - Two hotel employees accused of murdering the daughter of one of Ireland's leading sports personalities while she honeymooned on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius will go on trial on Tuesday.

Avinash Treebhowoon, 29, and Sandip Mooneea, 41, will face trial for the January 2011 murder of schoolteacher Michaela McAreavey, the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, who was strangled in her hotel room.

Police believe McAreavey, 27, was strangled after she stumbled in on a burglary upon returning to her room at the four-star Legends resort in the fishing village of Grande Gaube in the north of Mauritius.

Police said hotel key card records show someone else had used a card to gain access to the room two minutes before McAreavey entered it.

Her killers then placed the body in the bath and turned the taps on to make it look as if the victim had drowned.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte will not attend the trial.

"The father won't be coming," Dick Ng Sui Wa, a lawyer representing the McAreavey-Harte family, told AFP.

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland and many players and managers are celebrities.

Widower John McAreavey, who is expected to give evidence at the trial, arrived on Friday evening on the island, accompanied by his father, sister and brother-in-law and was escorted straight from the airport to a private location.

Local media said the family was being looked after by the diocese of Port Louis.

A jury will be picked on Tuesday and will decide on the guilt or innocence of Treebhowoon and Mooneea.

The two suspects, who both worked at Legends where McAreavey was staying, could be jailed for 60 years if found guilty. The trial is scheduled to last until 01 June.

Legends resort is popular with honeymooners and was popular with Irish newlyweds in particular, who voted it number one honeymoon destination the year before McAreavey's murder.

Mauritius, a volcanic island surrounded by coral reefs and lagoons, that lies 10 000km from Ireland, is best known for top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination. It welcomes nearly one million tourists a year.

The sector is an important pillar of the economy, employing, directly or indirectly around 100 000 people in the island nation, which has one of the highest per capita incomes of the African continent.