McGuinness to meet Mauritian commissioner over crime scene images

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MID Ulster MP Martin McGuinness is today (Thursday) due to meet the Mauritian Commissioner in London following the publication of pictures of Michaela Harte’s body in a Sunday paper on the island.

The 27-year-old schoolteacher’s family released a statement earlier this week urging the Sunday Times paper in Mauritius to reveal where it got the 12 images of the murder scene.

The family’s plea came shortly after the paper’s director apologised for the hurt caused by the circulation of the images, some of which included close-ups of the new bride’s injuries.

Imran Hosany was detained by police in Mauritius yesterday, a day after the paper’s offices were raided and computers seized.

It was reported yesterday that the the Mauritian PM knows who leaked the pictures and Mauritian police have interviewed the journalist - who is thought to have obtained the pictures from a source close to the investigation.

Now Deputy First Minister McGuinness has asked that PSNI officers and members of the Gardaí are invited to the island to review files into Michaela’s murder. The Mauritian Prime Minister Dr Ramgoolam said he would invite detectives from Ireland to look at the police investigation into Michaela’s murder.

Last week the two men accused of the murder of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte’s daughter were acquitted at the Supreme Court in Port Louis amid scenes of jubilation where defence lawyers were carried on the shoulders of supporters who hailed them as heroes.

Michaela’s husband John, her brother Mark Harte and John’s father and sister left the courtroom almost immediately, having listened to almost eight weeks of harrowing evidence.

They returned home at the weekend, saying words could not describe the “devastation and desolation felt”.

Just a day later the family had to endure yet another shock when it was revealed a Mauritian Sunday newspaper had published pictures of Michaela’s body as she lay dead in the hotel room of the then Legends Resort.

They said the hurt caused to them “cannot be undone” but challenged those in charge at the paper to help police with their enquiries.

“As an editor he made a calculated decision to use photographs and images that no responsible media outlet would have touched,” they said.

“He further exacerbated his actions by printing an inexcusable editorial in a feeble attempt to justify what was wholly unjustifiable.

“As there is an on going police investigation by the Mauritian authorities as to how these distressing crime scene photographs found their way into the hands of this newspaper, if as this man claims, he is fully cooperating with the police, then the best and most obvious form of apology would be to tell them how his newspaper came into receipt of these photographs.”

The Mauritian Sunday Times Director insisted the pictures were not published for sensationalist purposes, but to “remind people that the crime has remained unpunished” and “show the scene of violence”.

The papers offices were raided on Monday but no arrests were made.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the actions of the paper in publishing the photographs were “callous and unjustifiable”.

Mr McGuinness is expected to meet the Mauritian commissioner in London to make clear the disgust of the public at the way the family has been treated.

The Prime Minister’s office in Mauritius said on Monday: “Government has taken cognizance of the outrageous publication in the issue of 15 July 2012 of a Sunday newspaper of the photographs of the dead body of Mrs Michaela Harte. This is a clear illustration of one of the most despicable methods of abuse and breach of the right to freedom of expression.

“It shows an utter lack of respect for, and a reckless infliction of further hardship on the bereaved families.

“This act runs counter to the deep attachment of our country and our citizens to family values and respect of those who have lost their beloved ones.

“It is a matter of deep regret that whilst the authorities, within our democratic legal framework, have throughout been taking all possible steps to bring the culprits to justice and maintain the reputation of our country as a hospitable and friendly place, some isolated and unscrupulous individuals in the media, for the sake of an irresponsible sense of sensationalism, are doing everything to harm the image of our country and that of its law abiding citizens.

“Government has referred the matter to the competent authorities.”