Mauritius – a terrible injustice?

There’s something a bit sickening and a bit familiar about the McAreavey judgement.  I say ‘the McAreavey judgement’, although of course it was the judgement on the innocence of the two accused men that got Irish attention, from the Taoiseach on down (or up). Just when it seemed that the death of Michaela McAreavey couldn’t get any more appalling than it was, this case and particular its culmination in the whooping joy at the ‘not guilty’ verdict showed that the ghastly can become even more ghastly.

However,  maybe we should face a few uncomfortable facts.

(i) We bring a degree of prejudice to the operation of the Mauritian courts – they’re far away, probably a bit primitive, a bit dodgy, unlike our own. Our prejudice is confirmed by the laughter in court, the yells and cheers and shouldering of the defence barrister after the acquittal.  But don’t forget the release of the Birmingham Six, the Guilford Four – maybe their courts and ours, their reaction and ours aren’t totally dissimilar.
(ii) Our feelings of despair at the judgement relate directly to our conviction that the men are guilty. Behind that is our conviction that John McAreavey, Michaela’s husband, is the subject of foul smears when his innocence is questioned. Just as the Birmingham Six and the Guilford Four remain, in some people’s minds, with a question-mark over their innocence. But in both cases, the truth is we don’t know. Most of us, I suspect, welcomed the release of the Birmingham Six and the Guilford Four, and resent the lingering doubts some people harbour about their innocence. But I don’t know  if those doubts have any foundation. In short, I’m prejudiced in favour of the released Irish prisoners, and I’m prejudiced against the release of the two Mauritian men in the McAreavey case. I’m prejudiced in favour of John McAreavey’s total innocence, not because I’ve studied the case in detail but because I identify with someone, as one commentator put it, from an impeccable pedigree: his uncle is a Catholic bishop, his late wife the daughter of one of Ireland’s outstanding people, let along Gaelic football managers. And yet that should, must have nothing to do with it. To judge a person, favourably or unfavourably, on the grounds of the family they come from, is totally wrong. My family could be grand people and I could be a pig; and vice versa. I feel in my gut that John McAreavey is a man totally innocent and one who has known a nightmare at close quarters, not once but twice. But his family background or that of his late wife has nothing to do with it.  If I don’t want to be judged by how good or bad my brother is, the same should apply to everyone else.

By now you’ll have noticed that I’m far from clear in my ideas about this case. On the one hand I find the death of Michaela and the trial eighteen months later ghastly affairs that must have loaded the Harte and the McAreavey families with a terrible burden of pain. On the other hand, I need to watch that I don’t assume guilt and innocence without clear, forensic evidence. And I believe most of us who are horrified by the judgement don’t have that clear, forensic evidence to support our horror.

3 Responses to Mauritius – a terrible injustice?

  1. Ryanm29 July 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    I’m not sure its the prejudice we have to support ‘one of our own’ or if its the ‘there but for the grace of god’ mentality that we have.

    When we first learned of the death, I can almost bet that every single one of your readers was shocked and saddened, but also, they replayed what poor John McAreavey must have seen… only for themselves.

    I know I put myself in his shoes for about 30s only it wasnt him, it wasnt her, it was me, it was my wife and we were in italy instead of their hotel. It was horrifying to me, and i’m sure it was to everyone else.

    Punishing someone for such a crime isnt going to bring the poor girl back, it does nothing for her, but it will help give a sense of justice to the family. To feel that no-one will be punished for this, that someone out there has killed this poor woman and doesnt have to answer for it is just as sickening as finding her in the first place.
    I dont believe for one second that this crime will be solved, inept police might be part of it, but my thoughts just have to be with John. Thankfully we know that his own family (and john snr is a really good man) and everyone knows Mickey Hearte is a great man.. they’ll help him through this again.

  2. Colman July 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Police bollixed this investigation with their buffonery, incompetence and negligence. Happens all the time. And not just in third world countries. From what I understood, the prosecution was devoid of physical evidence. There was a confession forcibly beaten out of one of the two accused, coupled with the allegations of a fellow employee who, while never actually seing the murder take place, placed the two accused at the scene of the crime. His cedibility was shot when captured on video laughing and joking with the two defendants shortly after the murder took place.

    Irish people are all too familiar with this type of trial by infomer or forced confession. Unless you have bigoted, biased, corrupt judges and non jury courts to rubberstamp the guilty verdict, cases brought on such substandard evidence should be circumspect and held to the greatest degree of proof.

    Though it is stomach churning for me to say this, cops are human, and subject to all the infallibilities of the human condition; laziness, hunger, apathy, egotism, prejudice, frustration and rage. Beating the crap out of a defendant who is giving them the run around in the interview room is probably par for the course in every police station in the world. There, the them and us syndrome is most often manifested in bitter contempt for the accused, no matter the burden the guilt.

    It may well be that members of the jury in Mauritius are well aware of the reputation of the local police force and gave more credibility to the accusations against the police, than they did to the alleged offences of the accused. If I was ever on a jury trial in the north of Ireland, I would knowingly shake my head if such allegations were made about PSNI.

    Being found innocent doesn’t mean the two accused weren’t guilty. Quite possibly, they were. Now that the investigative forces have been found to be so inept, sadly, it looks like we may never know. Unfortunately, for John McAreavey and the Harte’s, justice may never be done.

    • Anonymous July 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      In Northern Ireland we had similar ‘justice’ regimes. In 1950’s a police seargeant was killed in Cookstown, there was an arrest soon after and the suspect was beaten and tortured by the RUC detectives until the had extracted a confession. In court the defence were able to prove this person was tortured so he walked free. This person is known to have organised the entire ‘west of the Ban’ Provisional IRA recruitment and campaigning and was active on the Provisional army council right through the sixties. A little patience and proper correct police work would have saved many many lives by having this person ‘out of circulation’ during the 60s and 70s. The question is what else will the suspects do now??? That is the only way we will ever find out if they are criminals or ‘unlucky’