Belfast Telegraph

Harte murder probe after paradise island honeymoon ends in horror

Detectives in Mauritius believe GAA boss Mickey Harte's daughter Michaela was strangled.

Ms Harte (27), a former Rose of Tralee contestant, was found dead in her Mauritius hotel where she was on honeymoon with new husband, Co Down footballer John McAreavey. Her devastated father, the three-time Tyrone All-Ireland winning manager, last night described Michaela as his "little jewel".

Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun, from the Mauritius Police Force, said officers had identified six potential suspects and were confident of an arrest later today.

He said Mr McAreavey was in the restaurant of the hotel when his wife was murdered.

"She had gone back to the room to get some biscuits to put in her tea and, when she failed to return, her husband went to look for her," he said.

"When he found her in the room, she had been killed. He tried to help her but she was already dead.

"A post-mortem has showed she was strangled, she died from neck compression."

Mr Soopun said the killer had used an electronic key card to enter the room.

"There was no forced entry into the room," he said.

"Whoever killed her definitely used an electronic card."

He added: "This is being viewed with much concern by the police and government of Mauritius. We are doing everything we can to find whoever was responsible."

Bishop John McAreavey, an uncle of the groom, married the couple on December 30 at St Malachy's Church at Ballymacilroy. Standing outside a parochial house in Banbridge, Co Down, he said many questions remained unanswered and Michaela could have been the victim of a crime outside of the two families.

He said: "We fear something happened. We have fears that that is what happened. There are still so many unanswered questions. We are upset that she is dead. That is what we are struggling to come to terms with."

Bishop McAreavey added: "We are like everyone else. We hope that the questions that surround her death will be answered. We hope in time the situation will become clearer."

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As an Irish diplomat flew into Mauritius from South Africa to assist both families, it emerged Mr McAreavey, Michaela's husband of just 11 days, found his wife dead in her room at Legends Hotel in Grand Gaube around 4pm.

He immediately raised the alarm with management and frantic attempts were made by one porter to revive Michaela with emergency heart massage.

Police were then called to the scene. A spokesman for police headquarters in Mauritius last night said Ms Harte had been found lying on her back on the floor near the bathtub.

However, he said it is still unclear what caused her death.

Ms Harte's father said in a statement that she had been "killed". Staff at the hotel claimed she died as a result of "an accident".

But Bishop McAreavey said he stood over using the expression "killed" in his joint statement with the Tyrone manager.

Police said last night there was no sign that an intruder had been in the room. She had not been suffering any ill health.

The couple arrived at the hotel on Saturday and were due to leave next Sunday. They had spent the first leg of their honeymoon in Dubai.

Ms Harte was found dead not long after she lunched with her husband. She went upstairs to rest but when she failed to reappear, he became concerned and discovered her body in their room. A hotel porter was nearby at the time. A second member of staff was summoned.

He went straight to the room and immediately tried to resuscitate the young teacher for half an hour.

As her distraught family at home in Co Tyrone were told the news, her body was being taken to the Princess Margaret Orthopaedic Centre in Mauritius. Hotel staff are also due to be interviewed. A post-mortem examination was carried out on Tuesday.

News of the death was met with an outpouring of sympathy and profound shock last night.

Mr Harte and Tyrone GAA were scarred by tragedy in 2004 when star player Cormac McAnallen (24) died from sudden cardiac arrest.

Last night, Cormac's mother Bridget said: "I really feel heartfelt sympathy for the family. I can imagine how they must feel."

Ms Harte, an Irish teacher at St Patrick's Girls Academy in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was famously close to her father, who drove the newly married couple to Dublin airport.

Journalist Adrian Logan, a former sports presenter with UTV, said: "Mickey adored her. She was his number one fan."

Mr Harte's wife Marian was left devastated some months ago when her mother passed away.

In a statement last night the hotel said it was shocked at the death and was cooperating with a police investigation.

Belfast Telegraph

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