BBC Newsline Special - Return to Mauritius


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BBC Newsline Special - Return to Mauritius

Six years after John McAreavey's wife Michaela was killed on honeymoon in Mauritius, BBC Newsline's Mark Simpson joins him as he returns to the island.


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My deepest darkest fears and nightmares actually

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came into reality here.

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A young woman on a honeymoon was brutally murdered.

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Surely, you have to feel something about that!

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She had so much life to live.

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So much love to give.

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I wish it had never happened, but it did happen, we do not want

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that to be a blot on the reputation of the country.

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Those who have taken the life of this young woman will have

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somehow to face justice.

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It does surprise me that comes back, it does something in people's

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hearts, does something to us on the island.

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But why wait for six years?

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Why?

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I cannot get away from the tragedy and the trauma.

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I am always attached to Mauritius.

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And it hurts.

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This CCTV footage shows John McAreavy only minutes

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before his world fell apart.

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He was looking for his new bride, Michaela.

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He needed a spare key to get into their room.

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They had chosen Mauritius as their dream honeymoon destination.

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But it became the scene of sudden tragedy.

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The daughter of the Tyrone Gaelic football manager, Mickey Harte,

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has been found dead on honeymoon in Mauritius.

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She was a beautiful girl.

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Our hearts are broken.

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It happened here, at the Legends Hotel,

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12 days after their wedding.

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My deepest darkest fears and nightmares actually

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came into reality here.

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At the time, the police said that they believe that thieves

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broke into the room, Michaela disturbed them

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and they killed her.

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She was the only daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football

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manager Mickey Harte.

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She taught Irish and RE at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon.

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Two hotel workers were charged with her murder.

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Michaela's husband John, her brother Mark and John's sister,

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Claire, were in Mauritius for the trial, back in 2012.

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Jostled on his way into court on the first day.

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As Michaela McAreavey's widower made his way...

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This is a very distressing time for both of our families.

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It was almost entertainment value in Mauritius.

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And it was this kind of whodunnit type thing.

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After a trial lasting eight weeks, Sandip Mooneea

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and Avinash Treebhoowoon were acquitted of murder.

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After the two hotel workers were acquitted in 2012,

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a new police investigation was launched here at headquarters

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for the Mauritian police in the capital, Port Louis.

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They worked for the next four years and they did

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uncover some new evidence, but not enough.

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The McAreavey family were informed that the investigation had in effect

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come to a standstill.

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They had a big decision to make, give up or do something.

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What they decided to do was come to Mauritius themselves.

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A lot of people will know now that I am married again, to Tara.

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And I suppose, I suspect, that some people would think, OK,

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you know, he has experienced great tragedy, he is married again

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now, you move forward with happy life, you know.

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It is not like that.

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Yes, I am very happy now.

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Tara is just such a wonderful person and amazes me, really, because,

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she supports me so much in this.

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Anyone that loves you and loves you the right way will know that,

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they will support you in anything that is important in your life.

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And it was important to John McAreavey to make this journey.

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He returned to Mauritius.

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Along with his sister Clare who is a lawyer and Mark Harte,

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Michaela's eldest brother.

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It is not easy.

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Even though we have not been here for nearly five years,

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mentally, I have still very much been here.

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I cannot get away from the experience, the tragedy

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and dealing with the trauma.

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So, I am always attached to Mauritius and it hurts.

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I just hope that people will actually look at us now

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and realise, you know, these people have not gone away.

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There is a rawness, there is a grief that is still very

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prevalent in all of us.

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I have been in Mauritius three times now and each

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of the times I had a job to do.

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The first time was really about getting Michaela and John home.

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The second time was the attempt to get justice for Michaela's

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murder and the third time was because we felt we left that

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behind us a second time.

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Mauritius, unfortunately is not a place that holds

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for us happy memories or any positive associations.

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It has been difficult.

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I think we are arriving here with a very strong sense

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of purpose and resolve and we are very focused

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on what it is we want to achieve and essentially, that is justice

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for Michaela and we feel there is so much more to do,

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so much more that can be done and we are really here

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to bring that about.

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Ultimately, what we want, we cannot have, we cannot

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bring Michaela back, but we can get the next best thing

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and in our eyes, that is justice.

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In the six years since Michaela McAreavey was killed here,

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the Harte and McAreavey families have spoken very little

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about it, they have tried to deal with it privately.

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Now, they have changed tack.

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Coming here to Mauritius more than 6000 miles away

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is a very public gesture.

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In spite of their private nature, they are now trying

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to grab attention here.

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Mauritius is a holiday island.

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Heavily reliant on the tourist industry.

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So what impact did the murder of Michaela McAreavey have here?

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I wish it had never happened, but it did happen and there

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was a police enquiry, but it did create some problem

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for us in terms of perception of Mauritius as a destination

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for safety and for the security of tourists.

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But it was an isolated case.

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It was not something generalised.

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Do you think the killers of Michaela McAreavey

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will ever be caught?

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We have since passed legislation to ensure,

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that should there be any new evidence, any fresh evidence,

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it will be possible for a new trial to take place and I wish them

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all the best, if they can come up with any kind of new evidence,

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we as a government, we will take this very seriously,

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because we do not want that to be a blot on the reputation

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of the country.

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The verdict itself, I have to say, was a disappointment to us,

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because we felt that we had sufficient evidence which would

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satisfy reasonable prospects of securing conviction.

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But then we accept the decision of the jury.

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This is part of our criminal justice system, but we have not given up,

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because we want to find out who the culprits are.

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Those who have taken the life of this young woman will have

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somehow to face justice.

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Before beginning five days of meetings with the police,

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politicians and the press, there were was somewhere John,

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Claire and Mark wanted to go first.

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Long time, no see.

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How are you?

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Hard memories, yes.

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Nice to see you again, Father.

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Nice to see you again.

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Claire, we meet again, after so long.

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Mark, how are you?

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John.

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How are you?

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Are you keeping well?

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You have a lot of memories in the house here, no?

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Yeah, indeed.

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Hidden deep in the Mauritian countryside, this was where John,

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Claire and Mark stayed during the trial.

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From you?

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More than 30 miles from the noise and bustle of Port Louis,

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it's a training college for catholic priests.

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We were able to make some calls from that room, yes.

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Your office is there, and is that far room

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still the living room?

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Whatever went on during the day, during the trial, that's

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where we kind of I suppose let our guard down as

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a family and we were able to express our emotions.

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At the time, we were very isolated.

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Whilst there's lovely views here, you did feel very trapped in a way.

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Oh, my goodness.

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You have upgraded the TV, Father!

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And the mosquitoes.

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You tried so many things for us, spray...

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We came here because of our main concern before coming out was just

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come somewhere where we had privacy, somewhere where we could sort of be

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together in our own thoughts without any intrusion.

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This was where we had our darkest thoughts, this was where we flipped

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the gate really with a padlock at 5:30pm after a long

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day of legal battles.

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This is where we analysed what had been discussed.

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This is where we prepared for what was coming the next day.

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I think it served its purpose, but it's definitely

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challenging being back here.

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For me this has been very difficult today.

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Mauritius has changed since they were last here.

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It now has a new government and one of the high-profile figures

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during the murder trial is now a member of Parliament.

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Back in 2012, Ravi Rutnah was a defence lawyer for one

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of the hotel workers accused of murder, Avinash Treebhoowoon.

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I hope one day this case can be closed.

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I really hope that police will find the real killer.

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What do you think about John McAreavey coming here to the island?

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Why wait for six years?

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Why?

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He says he was giving the police a chance to do the job.

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Six years?

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Who is he to give the Mauritian police a chance?

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Who is he?

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You know, I have been given to understand that John McAreavey

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has attempted to meet the Prime Minister of Mauritius.

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I anticipate that the Prime Minister is not meeting him,

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and should not meet him.

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Because...

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Why on earth?

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Why?

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You met on the last occasion, you met the Prime Minister of this

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country, you met the Commissioner of police in this country,

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you met a number of officers.

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You were treated like the blue-eyed boy of Mauritius.

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But Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth ignored the advice.

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He did meet John.

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We will be back in Mauritius very regularly from this point.

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If we have to be back next week, we will be back.

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If we have to be back next month, next year, we will be here as long

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as it takes to ensure this case is resolved.

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We need people's support and the people of Mauritius

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want this resolved.

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They don't want to see cameras following people about in Mauritius,

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tarnishing this good country, so we will be back

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as long as it takes.

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If I'm still standing here in 20 years, so be it.

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The lawyer is equally determined to get justice.

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Our Mauritian police, they are very good normally.

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I say normally because in more than 90% of murder cases,

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they are resolved, and it is very sad our police cannot solve

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this high-profile case, and it is a great disappointment not

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only for the police but also for the country.

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So, why is this murder still unsolved?

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Although he wasn't involved in the case, this forensics

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expert has his own theory.

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Like everybody else in this country, I woke up one morning to hear

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that she had been killed and I remember my first reaction

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was, I just hope the police, forensic guys and the doctors

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do not get scared.

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One of the great tragedies in this country, when something happens

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on hotel premises...

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Police does not have a free hand.

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Management is after the police to hurry up and hurry up,

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and even botch up the case because the other residents

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of the hotel are being disturbed.

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We asked the police about how they handle such investigations,

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but they said they didn't want to comment.

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We showed the interview to the Mauritian tourism minister

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to see what he thought.

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One of the great tragedies in this country, when something

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happens on hotel premises, police does not have a free hand.

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Management is after the police to hurry up and hurry up...

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What do you think of that?

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I do not share that view.

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The system we have in Mauritius is that whenever something big

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like this happens in a hotel, there is a duty on the part

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of the management of the hotel to call the police,

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and the police take over.

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And the police do whatever they have to do for the investigation.

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It takes the time that it takes, but I do not think there is any fear

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on the part of the police whenever they have to go to any hotel.

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I do not share that view at all.

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The Legends hotel was renamed Lux after the murder.

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We went there to try and get an interview.

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While we were filming, the outside of the hotel

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from beyond the perimeter, a manager came out and told

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us to stop filming.

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In fact he told us twice.

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He said no one was available for an interview at the moment

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but he asked us to put in a written request for an interview and I'm

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going to do that now.

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Could you give that to the manager, please?

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Thank you very much indeed.

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We got an e-mail confirming they didn't want to do an interview.

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We later asked in person, but again we were turned down.

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John's return was the focus of intense media interest.

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Now, he was about to face the island's press.

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We are going to put a reward forward for information and we are hoping

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maybe someone will be able to come forward and maybe give us a little

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bit more information, maybe something that can lead

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to evidence to bring us back on the road to justice.

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I'm enthused today since we have been over.

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The meetings have been good and I'm getting to understand

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what people have been doing, but ultimately this is what we came

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for, and that is the direct appeal to Mauritian public so it's very

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important we communicate our messages well today

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because we are very reliant on the people of Mauritius.

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So hopefully we do that, and hopefully the appeal can

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get us what we need.

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Did you get a good sleep?

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I did get a good sleep.

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I did get a good sleep after three hours the previous night.

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I'm ready to go, steely determination.

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That's me.

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They will probably be surprised to see him because we gathered

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that he has started a new life, got a new wife, so that he

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would move on and forget about this tragedy.

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And to see that his quest for the truth is still there,

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and I think people will be very supportive of that.

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It does surprise me that he comes back after so many years

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to still find who killed his first wife, so you kind of, yes,

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it does something in people's hearts, you know.

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It does something to us on the island.

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This is about Michaela.

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She had so much life to live, so much love to give.

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The pain of losing such a loved person is something

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which we as families will have to bear for the rest of our days.

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All of our hopes, dreams and ambitions taken away in one

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brutal and senseless act.

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The reality is that there are killers walking around

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in your communities, in your villages and in your towns.

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Killers of a young woman.

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Are your families safe?

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This could be your wife, your daughter, your sister.

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As a symbol of our determination, we are offering a reward

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As a symbol of our determination, we are offering a reward

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of 2 million rupees.

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That's around approximately 50,000 euros.

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Please be brave, please come forward with the truth,

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no matter how small or how irrelevant you think it is,

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it will be of help.

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Justice is the number one priority here and we will always be

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here to ensure is delivered.

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It is not very common in Mauritius to have this kind of offer

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or reward for evidence.

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I...I'm not very sure it is going to work.

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If I come forward as a witness after having been offered a reward,

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is that going to affect the quality of the evidence that I give?

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I'm just afraid that if somebody comes forward, the defence lawyers

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will try to damage that witness, so that is a risk.

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After all the media attention, the head of the Mauritian

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police force invited John, Claire and Mark for

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a private meeting.

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Mr McAreavey and his relatives have just met the commissioner of police

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and they have been reassured that there is an inquiry still going

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on, and we are going to exchange information and hopefully

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we will get something in the future.

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After five days in Mauritius, it was time to leave

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the island and go home.

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Then there was a last-minute change of plan.

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They decided to go to the one place they had always insisted

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they didn't want to go.

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The hotel where Michaela was murdered.

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I'm John's sister, Claire.

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We spoke on the telephone, I've never been here before.

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They wanted to make sure the appeal for new information was heard,

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face-to-face in the hotel.

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It was supposed to be a brief meeting, but it

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lasted well over an hour.

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I hadn't been to the hotel before.

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That was hard.

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You know, I'd seen lots of pictures of the hotel, I had read

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lots of evidence about the hotel.

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Actually being there was...

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that was hard.

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You want to protect your family members, and it's a different thing

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altogether when you have to walk into the ground where

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Michaela was murdered.

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This is where Michaela was killed and we believe there's still people

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employed at the hotel that have information.

0:26:060:26:15

They are going to be convening the staff together in the next

0:26:200:26:23

couple of days and appealing to them that if they have in the information

0:26:230:26:26

about what happened, that they come forward.

0:26:260:26:31

I think every other meeting which we've attended

0:26:310:26:33

since we've been over here, it is more effective when you can be

0:26:330:26:36

face-to-face with people.

0:26:360:26:37

We have been through worse.

0:26:370:26:39

When you are at rock bottom, there's only one way

0:26:390:26:42

you can look so, as I say, this comes down to Michaela.

0:26:420:26:48

This isn't about me, Mark or Claire, our families.

0:26:480:26:50

This is about getting justice for Michaela.

0:26:500:26:57

It was always going to be an emotionally draining five

0:27:030:27:07

days for the families, and so it proved, but they gained

0:27:070:27:15

greater access to the Mauritian authorities than they expected,

0:27:150:27:18

and they managed to get their message out to the local media

0:27:180:27:20

right around the island.

0:27:200:27:21

They did everything they could do.

0:27:210:27:23

For them now, it's just a waiting game.

0:27:230:27:29

A waiting game for both the Hart and McAreavey families to find out

0:27:290:27:32

whether this return to Mauritius will make any difference.

0:27:320:27:39

The journey out here, the time we have spent has had a purpose.

0:27:390:27:42

I think we have ruffled enough feathers to let

0:27:420:27:44

people know we are serious about what we are about.

0:27:440:27:51

We have no intention of going away.

0:27:510:27:54

We need justice for our families, we need justice for Michaela.

0:27:540:27:56

Not having justice, not being able to know the people that killed

0:27:560:28:05

Michaela have been held accountable is a very hard thing to bear.

0:28:050:28:08

We will come back, we will be back.

0:28:080:28:10

You know, we have lived with this every single day

0:28:100:28:12

since Michaela died.

0:28:120:28:13

I guess if someone else was in my position, I can only

0:28:130:28:20

imagine they would try to achieve what I try to achieve and what our

0:28:200:28:23

families try to achieve.

0:28:230:28:26

And yes, it is very difficult but ultimately I think

0:28:260:28:28

I owe it to Michaela.

0:28:280:28:31

Unless you are ready,

0:29:070:29:10

100% prepared,

0:29:100:29:12

it is a brutal business.

0:29:120:29:14

The champion of the world!

0:29:140:29:16

We're winners. We'll work very hard together.

0:29:160:29:18

I said to Christine, I might get hit a bit in this fight.

0:29:180:29:21

Six years after John McAreavey's wife Michaela was killed on honeymoon in Mauritius, BBC Newsline's Mark Simpson joins him as he returns to the island. No-one has ever been convicted of the murder.