Belfast Telegraph

Harte tragedy: Tragic Michaela was murdered for just £376

By Ciaran Barnes

It was the lavish honeymoon suite where devoted young couple John and Michaela McAreavey celebrated their wedding.

The newlyweds shared magical days in it together as they savoured the charms of the idyllic four-star Legends resort at Grand Gaube in northern Mauritius.

But their dream trip — and their dreams of a long and happy life together — were shattered by the brutal and senseless murder of beautiful bride Michaela.

Her fate was sealed when she went to her room to get a packet of Rich Tea biscuits to have with her cup of tea — only to disturb burglars, who would kill her.

The much-loved 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte was strangled on the tiled floor.

Her alleged killers, Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon, then apparently lifted her lifeless body and dumped it in the bath next to her marital bed.

Trying to make her brutal slaying look like accidental drowning, the tub was then filled full of water.

Yesterday it was still a crime scene, and has remained untouched since the brutal killing.

Dust where forensic scientists searched for fingerprints could clearly be seen around the rim of the bath.

Signs of a struggle are evident all around the room with the bed a mess, and a lampshade tilted to one side.

A drawer can be seen pulled open — evidence of how the murderous burglars were searching room 1025 for cash and valuables.

Items belonging to Michaela and John are still around the room, including a bottle of pills sitting on a bedside cabinet.

The kettle, which tee-total Michaela used regularly to enjoy her tea and biscuits, can be seen on a table in the background.

A handprint uncovered by scenes of crime officers is visible on the inside of the room door.

Photos of the front door of room 1025 are also littered with fingerprints.

Because her alleged killers were cleaners at the hotel, their jobs would have given them the perfect cover to carry out burglaries.

Michaela was murdered after she went to the room to get biscuits to share with her husband.

They had been relaxing at a poolside restaurant having just had lunch.

The walk from the pool to room 1025 took less than five minutes.

But what Michaela did not know was that two minutes earlier her room was broken into by a gang who used a stolen key to get inside.

When she opened the door she saw them holding John's wallet.

It contained £50, 300 euro and 3,500 Mauritian rupees. Michaela was murdered for the equvialent of £376.

Allegedly with Moneea's help, Treebhoowoon is said to have overpowered her and threw her to the floor. They strangled the teacher and lifted her body into the bath.

Wondering why his wife had been away so long, John went back to the room and found her lifeless body slumped in the bath. She was still wearing an orange coloured bikini top and black shorts and her clothing .

John tried desperately to revive her, but Michaela was dead.

He ran sobbing from the room and his cries alerted other guests who ran to his aid. One used a phone in the room to call the emergency services. Our picture shows it still lying off the hook.

Cops arrived quickly and took the well known gaelic footballer away before sealing off room 1025.

They questioned him about what happened but swiftly ruled him out as a suspect.

In a press statement, John, from Lawrencetown in Co Down, said his wife was a gift from God and added that he believed he now had an angel looking over him.

“I can't describe in words how lost I feel as Michaela is not just the light of my life — she is my life,” he said.

Within 48 hours of the brutal murder, officers arrested three members of hotel staff — floor supervisor Moneea, and room attendants Treebhoowoon and Raj Theekoy.

Moneea and Treebhoowoon were charged with murder, Theekoy with conspiracy to murder. Police say that all but Moneea have since confessed.

The murder shocked Mauritius and especially guests and staff at Legends Hotel in the north of the island, which prides itself on first-class service.

The four-star complex is popular with honeymooning couples, but few were willing to share their thoughts on Michaela's brutal murder.

One French couple, who stayed in a room nearby, said they were horrified by her killing.

“We saw them on the beach. She looked like every new bride, very much in love,” they said.

Because Michaela and John were at the hotel less than 48 hours before the murder, the newly-weds did not have time to meet many other guests. But hotel manager Xavier Arnoux remembers them clearly.

He said: “They looked like a perfect couple. What happened to them is absolutely terrible. Everyone on Mauritius is so sorry.”

Yesterday room 1025 was still being guarded by police. Xavier says that as soon as the police leave it will be cleaned and reopened to the public.

But he does admit that no amount of water will wash away the memory of Michaela.

“Everyone on the island knows her name and will remember it for a very, very long time,” he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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