Inappropriate mirth at solemn trial

Inappropriate mirth at solemn trial

A court case touching on the death of a young bride was always set to provoke a range of intense emotional reactions, but mirth was surely among the least appropriate.

Yet day two of proceedings inside courtroom five of Mauritius’s Supreme Court witnessed laughter – and plenty of it.

The jovial response from sections of the public gallery as defence counsel put pressure on a police witness was as startling as the court’s apparent failure to halt it.

It was as if they were watching a courtroom drama, not the solemn task of probing a real life murder.

With challenging questions and faltering replies drawing pantomime oohs and aahs, it was a spectacle which relatives of Michaela McAreavey must have found hard to stomach.

Her brother Mark Harte and sister-in-law Claire McAreavey looked straight ahead as the heckles continued. Her widower John McAreavey was spared the experience, set to be absent from court hearings until he is called as a witness.

Many young law students are sitting in on proceedings so youthful exuberance was maybe to be expected. And the relatives of the accused were hardly going to be on the police’s side. But indulgence of them by court officials was perhaps harder to fathom.

At one point a member of the public accidentally leant on a light switch, momentarily darkening the room. It merely brought further levity. Two men not raising a smile were the accused Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea.

Tucked in behind the witness box on seats much lower than the legal benches around them, they are almost incidental bystanders to the trial.

Most people in court would have to stand up or crane their necks to see their faces.

But those who do keep an eye on the hotel workers accused of strangling Mickey Harte’s daughter would see little or no reaction to the colourful proceedings unfolding around them.

Sitting as far apart as their eight foot bench allows, they appear not to ever interact, or make eye contact.

They just sit staring at the exchanges, occasionally raising their handcuffed palms to rub their eyes.

While Treebhoowoon’s eyes are deep set, he does not look his 30 years. His grey short-sleeved shirt is perhaps a size too big, which reinforces the sense of callow youth. His wife Reshma is also fresh faced.

The police’s custom of bringing him in and out by squeezing along the knees of those seated in one of the public benches allows the couple a chance to exchange glances and briefly touch.

It is the same with his co-accused Moneea, who despite handcuffs, clenched his wife Reka’s hand as he was ushered past her at lunchtime.

On his exit in the afternoon he clasped his hands in prayer as he swept by his relatives.

He is 42 and while his face is always clean shaven it certainly looks more lived in.

The grey flecks on his temples contrast with the black hair of Treebhoowoon, half a lifetime his junior.

But despite their differences and apparent mutual antipathy, they face the charges together.

Today one solitary police wagon transported both from the high security La Bastille prison in nearby Phoenix, instead of the separate vehicles of the opening day.

Inside the canvas-covered truck there was surely less space between them than in court room five.


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