Storms and silence at courtroom

High winds whipping across Port Louis on Sunday night brought a tree crashing down on the grey slate tiles atop the historic court building.

The branches blocking the entrance to criminal court five this morning did little to prevent the now-customary charge up the steps for seat in the cramped public gallery.

The law lecturers in the city must hardly need to come to work of late because every one of their students appears to have made the court a classroom for the duration of the McAreavey case.

Some of the more charitable undergraduates may well have wondered if a stray tree limb had struck Constable Hans Rouwin Seevathian on the head, as he was having difficulty remembering things when he arrived in the witness box.

Each moment Mr Seevathian remained silent in the face of defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry’s questions must have felt like an age in front of the packed, hushed courtroom.

Finally, Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah intervened. “Let the record show that the witness remains silent to this question,” he said.

In describing the police escorting defendant Avinash Treebhoowoon to and from interview suites, jail cells, and court rooms, Mr Teeluckdharry chose the word “manhandled”.

At least twice he asked: “Which officers manhandled accused number one?”

Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah was forced stepped in once again.

This term should be avoided, he said firmly.

“We all know English and we all know what manhandling is,” he said.

Mr Teeluckdharry adopted “handled” as his alternative but it appeared to do little to loosen the cogs in the policeman’s memory banks.

The lawyer brought his cross-examination to a close for the day with a series of questions about Mr Treebhoowoon’s court appearance in Mapou, two days after the murder.

At the court, the accused made a series of serious allegations against officers, claiming brutality.

Mr Seevathian was with him when he levelled those complaints in court.

Sixteen months on, the officer insisted he could not recall such details.

“It was a complaint against police but I can’t remember exactly the wording,” he said.

Mr Teeluckdharry persevered, asking instead what the nature of the complaint was. Again the officer drew a blank.

Mr Seevathian is set to return to the witness box today.


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