Michaela funeral: Harte family grief and a people's sorrow as honeymoon murder bride buried
The grief and anguish of a heartbroken family and the sorrow of a people in mourning were palpable today at the funeral of honeymoon murder victim Michaela McAreavey Harte.
Mourners from the four corners of Ireland gathered in and around St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy - outside the Co Tyrone village of Ballygawley - to bid a poignant final farewell to the woman who was murdered on her honeymoon in Mauritius last week.
Grief-stricken husband John McAreavey buried his sweetheart in the graveyard beside the church where they married just days after Christmas.
Sporting, religious and political dignitaries were among those paying their respects to the tragic newlywed.
Mourners packed into St Malachy’s Church – where Michaela was married just 18 days earlier – and the surrounding area for one of the biggest funerals Tyrone has seen.
They included Irish President Mary McAleese, Cardinal Sean Brady and Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister.
Michaela, the 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone boss Mickey Harte, was found strangled in her room at the luxury Legends Hotel where she had been on honeymoon.
Today’s service was led by the Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, who married Michaela and his nephew, also John McAreavey, on December 30.
Thousands of people had converged on Ballygawley from early morning.
The funeral cortege left the Harte family home at Glencull Road shortly after 11.30am.
The Harte and McAreavey families helped carry the coffin, with the Tyrone senior team and members of the local Errigal Ciaran GAA club forming a guard of honour along the mile-long journey.
Heartbroken relatives including Michaela’s husband, parents Mickey and Marian, and brothers Mattie, Michael and Mark attended.
Outside the church the coffin was flanked by Mr McAreavey’s team-mates from Tullylish GAC, and pupils from St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon, where Michaela taught.
Requiem Mass was led by Bishop McAreavey, and his concelebrants included Archbishop Dermot Clifford, the patron of the GAA; parish priest Fr Michael Seery; and Fr Gerard McAleer, a life-long family friend and a former Tyrone selector.
Brian Dooher, Tyrone’s All-Ireland winning captain, and Johnnie McDermot, the chairman of Tullylish GAC, were both due to give scripture readings.
The Prayer of the Faithful was due to be recited by John Devine, another of the victorious Tyrone team; Aileen O’Hare, a teacher at St Patrick’s Academy and a close friend of Michaela; Susan Cullinan, her former Irish teacher, and Francie Downey, who had been groomsman at her wedding.
Following mass, the coffin was carried over the small stream to the adjoining cemetery for burial.
The families have requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to charities set up in memory of two Tyrone gaelic footballers who also died in tragic circumstances — the Cormac McAnallen Trust and the Spirit of Paul McGirr fund.
Michaela’s body was brought home to Ballygawley, accompanied by her grief-stricken husband and family, amid emotional scenes on Friday night.
A public wake was held over the weekend, with people from across Ireland travelling to pass on their sympathies to her heartbroken relatives.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were joined by Sports minister Nelson McCausland, and DUP MLAs Arlene Foster and Lord Morrow.
At one point yesterday, mourners were queuing for over an hour to pay their respects.
Such were the numbers wishing to sympathise that a park-and-ride facility from designated car parks was set up to take people to the house.
Three hotel workers have been charged in connection with Michaela’s death on the popular holiday island — two with murder and one with conspiracy to murder.
One of the murder accused, room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon (29), has reportedly confessed to the killing.
His co-accused, floor supervisor Sandip Moneea (41), has made no admission.
It is understood Treebhoowoon admitted the crime to officers after the third accused, fellow room attendant Raj Theekoy (33), made a statement implicating him and Moneea.
Theekoy is charged with conspiracy because he allegedly passed along the corridor outside the room while the struggle was taking place but ignored Michaela’s screams and failed to report them.
Skin tissue found under her fingernails could prove crucial to the police case against the two accused with the results of DNA tests due in the coming days.