A good reputation is difficult to build and very easy to lose. Popular places, wealthy faces and even profitable businesses have been humbled and destroyed by losing their good name. Quite often arrogance and complacency contribute to such a fall but sometimes the destruction of a respected reputation can be traced to incompetence and laziness. A person’s good name is his character. A business cannot exist without good standing among its customers and competitors. But what happens if an entire country loses its reputation? What if a small island that depended entirely on the tourism trade was discredited internationally? Could it survive? We may be about to find out.
What exactly is happening in Mauritius? The trial for the murder of Michaela McAreavey is fast descending into a complete and utter farce. Every day for the last month newspapers have carried incredulous tales of lies and fabrication in the island. Reports of police incompetence and investigative failures seem to materialise out of thin air at an alarming rate. The prosecution appears no closer to a conviction now than when the trial started over three weeks ago. All the while, Michaela’s family and friends struggle to contain their emotions and frustrations in a cauldron of anxiety and suffocation.
So far throughout the course of this trial we have been bombarded with contradiction. The two men accused of Michaela’s murder, former Legends Hotel staff members Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea, are steadfastly denying any involvement in her death and there appears to be a considerable lack of DNA evidence to support their prosecution.
To add to the confusion, there are allegations that both men were beaten and mistreated at the hands of local police. Both defendants claim written statements and admissions of guilt were forced from them under duress.
Security officers at the Legends Hotel have also been accused of withholding vital information. John McAreavy was placed under arrest in the immediate aftermath of Michaela’s death on the basis that local police considered him to be a suspect. The former Down footballer, hours after discovering his wife’s murdered body in the bath of their hotel room, spent considerable time handcuffed in a local police station on his own and in despair. Investigators claim they were only presented with a reading from the hotels electronic door system after persistent requests. They also say if they had access to that information sooner, John would never have been considered a suspect.
As each detail in this case emerges and more mistakes are uncovered, Mauritius and the reputation of its people and their justice system suffer. One thing is absolutely certain though; no matter how this trial concludes or what verdict is ultimately reached, Mauritius as a tourist destination has been hugely damaged by the handling of this case.
I often wonder what Mickey Harte must be going through. Naturally, given the time of year with the All Ireland Championship in full swing, he can at least be thankful that his mind and body are kept relatively busy with the demands of coaching the Tyrone senior football team. In spite of his GAA commitments, however, there must come a time every day when his heart skips a beat in memory of his daughter. How any parent can come to terms with the loss of a child is beyond my comprehension, but I imagine the pain to be overbearing and unrelenting.
I’ve always had nothing but admiration for Mickey. His incredible ability to remain calm in the face of intense pressure always demanded my respect. Yet despite this amazing resolve, even Mickey must struggle to suppress the torment in his soul after suffering such an unthinkable tragedy. A man so openly bound by the passion of his faith must also question how all of this came to pass. He may never truly have an answer.
The grieving process for the Harte and McAreavy families will take a long, long time. But they must be allowed to have closure on Michaela’s death. A circus trial conducted in the full glare of the media spotlight will only serve to prolong their already unspeakable agony. Why is this case so full of discrepancy? Why in 2012 with all the advancements in criminology and scientific data is there no definitive evidence from a murder crime scene? In the immediate aftermath of Michaela’s murder the Mauritian authorities promised and demanded swift justice for those responsible. They have completely failed to deliver on this promise so far. In a country where tourism is vital to supporting the economy and providing jobs for thousands of families, why is this farce being allowed to continue in the manner in which it is?
Mauritius has always sold itself as a tropical paradise; an idyllic and tranquil setting for couples and honeymooners who are looking for something special. When the people of Ireland think of Mauritius today, what is the first image that comes into their minds? For me, I can only picture the beautiful face of a 27 year-old woman from County Tyrone. She had just started married life with her husband and they both looked so happy. Tragically Michaela is no longer with us and those who loved her are left to pick up the pieces. At the very least, they should be allowed to try and move on with their lives.