Church leader Rev Harold Good has said that a loyalist leader’s decision to travel to Michaela McAreavey’s family home to pay his respects was a “significant demonstration” of how far Northern Ireland has come.
Rev Good contacted former Red Hand Commando boss Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea at the weekend to thank him for making the journey to the Harte home in Tyrone.
Rea — who was jailed in the mid-Seventies for his role in the murder of two Catholics — told the Belfast Telegraph that Michaela’s murder affected him so much that he wanted to personally pay his respects to the Harte and McAreavey families.
As he queued to get into the house to pass on his condolences, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness spotted him and came over to shake his hand. Inside the house he stood at Michaela's coffin with her father, Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte, and her husband John McAreavey.
Rev Good said that Rea’s gesture “demonstrates the intuitive desire of many people to do the right thing, to reach out as people and share our common humanity”.
“This is what changes hearts and minds. I think it was a very significant demonstration of how far we have moved on our journey and I wanted to commend Winkie Rea and thank him on behalf of our community for doing what would not have been an easy thing to do,” said Rev Good.
He added: “He did what was the right thing. He was doing it on behalf of a huge section of our community. He allowed himself to do what he knew himself was the right thing, no matter what anyone else says. That, to me, was so important.”
Meanwhile, one of the men charged with conspiring to murder Michaela is understood to have told detectives in Mauritius that the robbery in her room was planned.
Security officer Dassen Narrainen made a statement to officers from the Major Crime Investigation Team yesterday saying that the robbery of room 1025, where Michaela and her new husband were staying, was planned. He added that he had given murder accused Sandip Mooneea a master key to the room the day before the newlyweds checked in to the hotel.
However, when presented with the evidence against him, Moonea continued to deny any involvement in Michaela’s death.
In his statement to police he is understood to have said: “I’ve got nothing to do with the murder of Michaela Harte. I was not in room 1025 when she was killed.”
He claimed that he had been in another room “in the vicinity” of room 1025, but that he ran to the room when he heard something had happened there.
Mooneea was charged with murder after his co-accused Avinash Treebhoowoon told police that he pinned the victim down on the floor while Mooneea “strangled her”.