McAreavey calm amid the chaos as murder trial starts

John McAreavey paused for a moment before entering the small cobbled yard that led to courtroom 5.

It was almost as if he was steeling himself, not just for the day ahead but for the whole gruelling trial.

The widower of Michaela McAreavey then slowly walked into the storm awaiting him at Mauritius’s Supreme Court. He had not gone five steps before he was enveloped by the onrushing crowd.

Cameras and microphones were thrust at him like pikes by an overeager local media pack between him and the open air staircase to the court above.

Local police appeared almost indifferent to the spectacle; they certainly did little to ease his path through the gauntlet.

But his calm expression never wavered, his pace never quickened and not an angry word was uttered.

The Co Down accountant, who still wears his gold wedding ring, was the essence of dignity. All around there was precious little evidence of it.

His sister Claire, father Brendan and Michaela’s brother Mark Harte tried to form a protective bubble around him.

Similar scenes had greeted the defendants moments earlier. The irony was the handcuffed Avinash Treebhoowon and Sandip Mooneea had a Mauritian police escort to ease their passage to the stairwell.

No dispensation was afforded to their relatives either, who found themselvesjostled and shoved as they attempted to seek shelter from the snapping lenses.

With the main protagonists in court, policemen standing at the foot of the stairs gave the signal that the public could gain access. Cue another unseemly free-for-all.

Courtroom 5 was designed to accommodate about 80 people. At one stage in the first hour of the trial’s first day there were around 190 crammed inside. The only discernible space in the whole court appeared to be the 5ft gap between the two defendants in the dock.

Behind them the glass wall was covered with full-length curtains. The occasional gap let in a shard of dazzling sunlight. If light was not a problem, sound certainly was. The combination of bad acoustics and an even worse sound system meant initial proceedings were barely audible from the public gallery. The whirr of air conditioning heightened the difficulty.

The McAreavey and Harte family members sat in the first row but still struggled to make out anything in the early stages.

Eventually additional microphones were sourced and the matter was resolved.

Jurors in the trial were sent home after being sworn in and the judge told them they would begin to hear evidence tomorrow.

Tragic honeymooner Michaela was found dead in the bathtub of her luxury hotel room on the Indian Ocean island paradise last January.


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