Jurors in the trial of two men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey have been told to cut themselves off from the outside world as they prepare to hear from the first witness.
After the nine members were sworn in at Mauritius’s Supreme Court in the island’s capital city Port Louis on Tuesday, Judge Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah warned the three women and six men not to access any coverage or commentary on the Michaela McAreavey case.
The 27-year-old school teacher was found dead in the bathtub of her luxury hotel room on the Indian Ocean island paradise last January – just two weeks after her wedding.
The daughter of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte had momentarily left her new husband John beside the pool of the five-star Legends Hotel to fetch some biscuits for a cup of tea.
The trial of the two hotel workers accused of her murder is one of the most high-profile the popular holiday destination has ever witnessed.
The chaotic scenes outside court five ahead of the first day reflected that fact, as the defendants and then Mrs McAreavey’s widower were swamped by crowds, with local media at the forefront, when they entered the courtyard of the old colonial era building.
Defendants Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, who deny the charges, were led into the dock as almost 200 people crammed into every available space inside. Scores stood at the back.
Relatives of the accused were also jostled as police struggled to control the flow of people into court.
After an hour selection process, the nine jurors were sworn in and then retired to appoint a foreman.
On their return, judge Fecknah addressed them before sequestering them to an unnamed hotel.
“You will refrain from reading press on this matter and you will refrain from watching the television,” he said.
The judge added: “You will free yourself from all outward sources of information.”
The matter was the only one heard before the jury on the first day, with other legal issues discussed without jurors present for the remainder of proceedings.
Mr McAreavey was accompanied to the court by his sister Claire, father Brendan and a brother of his late wife, Mark Harte.
The widower, from Co Down, who has been listed as a witness in the case, sat in court for a short period but left before jury selection commenced.
Afterwards outside court his sister appealed for the family’s privacy to be respected during the trial.
“This is very distressing time for both our families and the days ahead will be very difficult for us,” she said.
She urged the media for “space”.
“Thank you for your support and we ask for your prayers at this time,” she added.
The case against hotel room attendant Treebhoowoon, 30, from Plaine des Roches, and floor supervisor Moneea, 42, from Petit Raffray, is expected to last two to three weeks. Almost 50 witnesses are set to testify.