Northern Ireland

Michaela McAreavey murder trial - two men plead not guilty

Two men charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius last year have pleaded not guilty.

The daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte was found dead at the luxurious Legends Hotel during her honeymoon on 10 January 2011.

Police believe she was strangled after she interrupted a burglary.

Avinash Treebhoowoon, 30, and Sandip Moneea, 42, have denied murder. The jury retired for the day shortly after being sworn in.

Earlier on Tuesday, the judge heard the charge of pre-meditated killing put to the two men. Michaela suspects deny murder

Both of them replied: "Not guilty."

Outside court, Claire McAreavey - sister of Michaela's widower John - read a joint statement on behalf of her brother and the Harte family.

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

Ms McAreavey added they were "anxious that nothing will be said or done that will compromise or prejudice the due process during the trial" and would not be making any further statements.

Lawyers for Mr Moneea, a former floor supervisor at the Legends Hotel, will ask the judge not to allow the trial to go ahead.

He wants to be tried separately from his 30-year-old co-accused, Mr Treebhoowoon, a room attendant at the complex.

If the trial does go ahead, Mr McAreavey is among 35 witnesses who are expected to testify at the island's Supreme Court in the capital city of Port Louis.

He is being called by the prosecution team.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah, asked Mr McAreavey to return on court on Monday and said he would be expected to start giving evidence some time next week.

A room cleaner at the hotel, Raj Theekoy, has also been named as one of those giving evidence. He is the key witness in the case against the two accused.

The police said he was just outside the room and has crucial evidence about the moments after the killing.

Other staff working at the Legends Hotel - now called the Lux Grande Gaube - are due to take to the witness stand.

These include a bell boy, the chief security officer and resort director.

It is thought the trial will last for about two weeks.

A spokesman for the Harte and McAreavey families has confirmed that Mickey Harte will not be attending the trial.