The family of Irishwoman Michaela McAreavey has lashed out at the “Kangaroo court” that acquitted the two men accused of her murder in Mauritius.
The daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte was strangled to death in her hotel room while on honeymoon in 2011.
The following year, two local men were acquitted of her murder following a trial that hit headlines around the world.
Now, her husband John McAreavey has put together an in-depth podcast – outlining the ordeal the family went through and the strength of the evidence against the two men.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, he said the family had spent nearly nine years working with the Mauritian authorities in the hope they would deliver justice for Michaela.
“Our approach was, look, there is no point shouting and roaring here and getting their backs up,” he said.
“We needed these guys on side and we felt we should support them and give them an opportunity to right the wrongs that happened in 2012.
“We felt that was our best chance at actually delivering justice. That was the main objective - but as time went on, that has just sort of faded away.”
He said a change in Mauritian law, paving the way for the men to face retrial should “compelling” evidence come to light, had given the family fresh hope.
The new podcast sets out all the evidence the court heard the first time around - and aims to give listeners an idea of what the court process was like.
“We always felt that because the trial itself had turned into this big circus act, the truth had been lost in that and we wanted to present the evidence,” he said.
“The evidence is really, really strong and that is why we are so certain that the men who were acquitted are responsible.”
He noted that just days after the murder, a lawyer for one of the accused went on live radio to apologise on behalf of his client.
He said the lawyer questioned Michaela's death was "such a big thing” when people from Mauritius “get murdered every day.”
“At the end of the day, they got the right men,” he said. “A guy confessed. A guy saw the two perpetrators coming out of the room.”
“The evidence is just so strong – and that is why we really wanted to talk about the depth of the evidence in the podcast.”
Mr McAreavey said the local population was initially very sympathetic to him and his family; however, by the time they returned to the island nation for the trial, the atmosphere had changed.
He said the defence team was able to mould public opinion so that it was as if “these white wealthy westerners were coming in against these poor impoverished men that were just plucked up because someone had to be held responsible.”
“The jury was always going to have to come from the island of Mauritius and if you have 18 months spreading rumours, then how are you going to get an unbiased jury?” he asked.
“We were on the way to court one day in the police vehicle and the first thing on the news every morning is this case. They ran this poll amongst the public in Mauritius about who was responsible for Michaela’s death and I came out at the top of the poll. How are you supposed to get an unbiased jury when all this is going on?
“The jury were allowed home. They were allowed their phones. How are you meant to deliver justice [like that]?
“These are the questions the Mauritian authorities have to answer – and they haven’t answered them.”
He said the podcast tries to give people a sense of what it was like to attend “this kangaroo court” every day.
“It was full to the public gallery and [...] the defence for these two men used this as a platform to be the greatest entertainers,” he said.
“They would play up to the gallery and the gallery would respond and everybody was sitting laughing.
“All of this time we were sitting there and we have two men sitting over to our left who had brutally killed Michaela – and this was just our life now. And you have a judge sitting up there that is allowing it all to happen.”
Despite the experience at the time, he said was still confident the jury would convict.
“I had faith in the jury because everything else that was going on didn’t really matter,” he said.
“I looked at them every day and I felt that they came across – just visually – as balanced people and I felt that the strength of the evidence was just so strong that it didn’t matter what else anybody said. The evidence is there and these people have listened to the evidence.
“For them to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty, it sunk my heart.
“It sunk our hearts and, at that point, I felt stupid. I felt stupid because I was like, ‘how did I ever think that we were going to get justice here.’”
He said throughout the trial the defence constantly referenced religion, wealth and nationality.
“They were appealing to the jury on all those levels, that they had to return the verdict for their country,” he said.
“And boy did they do that.”
You can listen back to the full conversation here:
— Pat Kenny Newstalk (@PatKennyNT) November 29, 2019