Drama as defence lawyer terminates role

It was not just like a closing line from a Hollywood movie… it actually was one.

“I’ll be back,” Ravi Rutnah declared with typical flamboyance. “In Arnold Schwarzenegger style.”

It was a remarkable stage exit from the irrepressible defence counsel, who at times over the past two weeks has bestrode the courtroom like a Shakespearean actor.

His staccato delivery and colourful turn of phrase beguiled many before his time on the front bench was dramatically cut short, but it frustrated and upset others in equal measure.

While his pledge to “rock and roll” on lines of questioning delighted his law student admirers in the public gallery, his confrontational approach with witnesses and penchant for quips raised hackles, and not just those of phlegmatic chief prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan.

The even-tempered judge, Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah, certainly appeared to have cause to admonish Mr Rutnah more than any other lawyer involved in the Michaela McAreavey trial.

“Please, please counsel,” he urged him on one occasion after the barrister reacted with incredulity at a prosecution witness’s answer. “Do not get carried away.”

But there was no judicial intervention today as Mr Rutnah informed the court that he had been left with little option but to step aside.

A police chief inspector who told the jury he shared his fried rice with the lawyer had, in his mind, attacked his professional integrity, said Mr Rutnah.

The claim did not appear to displease Mr Manrakhan half as much.

“That was very kind of you,” he observed dryly as Luciano Gerard recounted the alleged incident.

The senior officer had also claimed Mr Rutnah was more than an hour late for a meeting with defendant Avinash Treebhoowoon on the day he first admitted to police he murdered the Co Tyrone honeymooner.

The totality of the allegations had clearly infuriated the lawyer.

Mr Gerard, who is still to be cross-examined, was asked to leave the courtroom before Mr Rutnah made his announcement.

But just like the Terminator, Mr Rutnah fully intends to return — this time as a witness for the defence.

If permitted, it will no doubt afford him the opportunity to counter the claims made by the chief inspector.

Before striding out of the stunned courtroom, Mr Rutnah grabbed three legal textbooks between his hands and rapped them loudly on the bench.

It sounded like a director’s clip board snapping shut to mark the end of a scene.

He is gone for now, but don’t rule out a sequel.


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