INQUESTS for people who died abroad would be welcome for the peace of mind of some families, the husband of murdered Michaela McAreavey said.
A consultation on whether to change legislation to allow inquests to be held for those from Northern Ireland who died abroad has started.
A coroner can only hold an inquest where a body has been ‘found’ in the north, or where a death is unexpected, unexplained or occurred in suspicious circumstances. In England and Wales, and in the Republic, a coroner can order an inquest, while in Scotland the Lord Advocate makes the decision.
John McAreavey said a change of legislation would be “definitely welcome”.
“It would be a good development,” said Mr McAreavey, whose wife Michaela, the daughter of former Tyrone county manager Mickey Harte, was murdered on their honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011.
“What you are looking to find out is the country where the death took place is whether they are equipped so that justice is served,” he said.
“In our case it was far from it. The issue is that families want to know exactly what has happened if they are left in a situation where they do not trust what is told to them.”
Due to the high profile of his wife’s death, there was support from the PSNI, politicians and others to that they were able to find out a lot of information.
“We knew who was responsible and we were getting on with the work to ensure justice was done and have been doing that for 10 years,” said Mr McAreavey.
But he added that for some families in the dark over the death of their loved ones it would give them “real peace of mind” knowing there is a investigation here into the circumstances.
“You trust your own people to be frank about it and we have a highly developed legal system,” he said.
Mr McAreavey, who remarried and is expecting his second child in January, said there may be a cost element to holding inquests for people who died abroad but believes it would be worth it for the peace of mind it will provide to likely a small number of families.
An inquest into the death of 15-year-old Nóra Quoirin, daughter of Belfast woman Meabh Quoirin, would not have happened if the family had been living in the north.
Nóra was discovered dead nine days after she went missing from an eco-resort in Malaysia in August 2019.
Her family were granted an inquest, though they were "utterly disappointed" with the verdict after it was ruled there was no criminal involvement. Ms Quoirn believes her daughter was abducted.
Announcing the consultation, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “We need to fully consider the options, balancing the wish to have an inquest into a death abroad alongside the need for it to be effective in providing meaningful answers about the death.”