Trial Jury Chosen in Newlywed's Murder in Mauritius

By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp

MAURITIUS (CNN) -- Two men accused of murdering an Irish teacher on her honeymoon last year pleaded not guilty when they appeared in court in Mauritius on Tuesday, police on the Indian Ocean island said.

Michaela Harte-McAreavey, 27, was strangled in her hotel room in January 2011, just days after her wedding.

Her widower, John McAreavey, has returned to Mauritius for the trial in the capital city, Port Louis. Family friends in Ireland said he had to battle through crowds outside the building to attend the Supreme Court hearing.

Police in Mauritius say the accused -- hotel workers Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, and Sandip Moneea, 42 -- pleaded not guilty to premeditated killing.

Local media say that as the case involves the killing of a tourist, there's intense interest in Mauritius, and dozens of people crammed into the small courtroom for the hearing.

A jury of six men and three women was selected, and proceedings were then adjourned for the day, police said. Officers believe the newlywed was killed after interrupting a burglary as she returned to her hotel room.

She was the daughter of one of Ireland's best-known sporting figures, Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, and was a winner of the Ulster Rose of Tralee beauty pageant title. Her widower has played Gaelic football at its highest level.

Police say John McAreavey is scheduled to be among more than 30 witnesses expected to give evidence. His sister Claire McAreavey read a statement to media outside the court on behalf of the McAreavey and Harte families, appealing for privacy during the trial.

"This is a very distressing time for both our families, and the days ahead will be very difficult for us," she said.

"We hope that the media will understand that we are anxious that nothing will be said or done that will compromise or prejudice the due process during the trial."

She added that the families would not be making any further statements during the trial, which is expected to last for three weeks.

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