Theatrical air too much for Michaela’s family

After six testing days in court, it was the first marked sign of frustration from Michaela McAreavey’s family.

Claire McAreavey, her sister-in-law, had sat stoically through hour upon hour of often-harrowing evidence, despite regular interruptions from the packed rows of the public gallery behind her.

The most jarring have been the laughs that greeted the often theatrical wrangles between defence and prosecution counsels.

As another ripple of levity broke out yesterday, it appeared Ms McAreavey had decided enough was enough.

“Be quiet please,” she implored, turning round to confront the main offenders.

They duly fell silent.

Her father Brendan joined her in courtroom five of the Supreme Court in Port Louis, Mauritius, this week, taking the place filled by Michaela’s brother Mark Harte in the first four days of the trial.

The honeymooner’s widower John is elsewhere on the island, unable to attend until he is called as a prosecution witness.

It must be a long, painful wait, one set to go on for the remainder of this week at least — the original fortnight timescale for the trial was torn up long ago.

The latest outburst in the public gallery came as defence lawyer Ravi Rutnah challenged a Mauritian forensic scientist on one of her answers.

Principal state counsel Mehdi Manrakhan objected, insisting his counterpart could not argue with an expert’s opinion.

“I’m not arguing,” Mr Rutnah fired back. “I’m asking a question of a scientific nature.”

The now-familiar exchanges from the bar prompted the giggles to which Ms McAreavey reacted.

Soon after, judge Justice Prithviraj Fecknah admonished Mr Rutnah for again challenging the scientist, this time after she asked him to explain one of his questions.

“Please, please counsel don’t get carried away,” the judge said. “It happens that a witness doesn’t get your question. The simple thing is to ask the question again, not to go on a discourse.”

The gallery had otherwise been relatively subdued on day six of the high-profile trial.

Inspector Sunilduth Nucchedy certainly was not providing opportunity for a comic response. While some of his police coll-eagues have faltered in the witness box under cross-examination, he was one of the first on the murder scene and appeared at ease as the questions rained down on him.

At one point, the pristinely turned-out officer raised his hand like a traffic warden to urge defence barrister Rama Valayden to hold a question until the judge was ready.

Mr Nucchedy also noticed the judge’s habit of typing his trial notes into the laptop in front of him as he goes along. It explains the odd halo of light which seems to surround him, high upon his seat at the front of court, as the screen illuminates his features.

As he heeded the witness’s signal, Mr Valayden explained: “I am not used to having a judge with a computer; my first time.”

The judge was also thankful. “I am grateful to the witness for waiting.”

Later in the day, when Mr Rutnah attempted to pose a question to the forensic scientist for a second time, the judge glanced at his screen before stepping in.

“This question has been asked already,” he pointed out. “That’s the advantage of a judge taking notes.”


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