Former Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte has recalled how his wife “collapsed, unconscious” in his arms after he told her their daughter had been murdered on her honeymoon.
Harte released his third autobiography on Thursday, in which he shares the most revealing details to date of his family’s struggle in dealing with the loss of Michaela.
The teacher (27) was found strangled in a bath at her and new husband John McAreavey’s hotel 12 days after their wedding in January 2011.
Around a third of the 312-page ‘Devotion – A memoir’ is based around Michaela’s wedding, her murder and subsequent aftermath.
“Naturally, I find it hard not to get angry about what happened to Michaela and the people who caused her death,” writes Harte.
“Ultimately, we want justice for Michaela, but who knows when that day will come. So I have to keep my feelings in check. My wellbeing cannot depend on the outcome of a case that could run for many more years. Life has to be that way for me or else I think I would find it hard to move forward.”
No one has been convicted of the murder, but the Mauritian government agreed to look into the investigation again earlier this year.
The 67-year-old prefers not to think of the moment she died but still wonders "what was going through her mind - no doubt she challenged her killers... I can imagine her disgust”.
The Ballygawley native notes that he would still like to confront her killers, writing: "I would love to hear them say that they did not set out to kill.”
Harte describes the horrific moment he received the news, as McAreavey's dad, Brendan, told him he had to ring John as "something has happened to Michaela".
He later tells of his pain at breaking Michaela’s death to his wife, Marian, stating "she collapsed, unconscious in my arms".
Extracts written by John McAreavey and Harte’s three sons, Mark, Mattie and Michael, also appear throughout the memoir.
John recalls the exact chain of events of Michaela’s death in heartbreaking terms.
"I wish my memory was more of a blur,” he writes. “Seeing Michaela in the bath, the water overflowing, her body floating... my mind wasn't willing to accept that she was dead.”
John spent about six weeks living with the Hartes when he returned to Tyrone and slept in Michaela’s bed. It took him nine months to get back to work.
At one point, he writes: "I felt that I let Mickey down. It's something that's always going to be with me."
The Down man, who was 26 at the time of Michaela’s death, has since remarried to his wife, Tara, in 2016, and the couple now have a baby boy, James.
He writes about finding love again and feeling he had Michaela's blessing from beyond the grave as if she were saying: "I'm fine here, John. You need to move forward."
At one stage in the book, Mattie Harte looks back on all the people that came to the family house for Michaela’s wake to pay their respects, which was an estimated 20,000.
“I remember Fr Gerard told me that Donna Traynor from the BBC broke down in his arms after she interviewed him,” he writes.
Alongside GAA stars from all generations, he also remembers Winkie Rea, the former Loyalist paramilitary coming and introducing himself on behalf of the Shankill Northern Ireland Football Supporters Club.
“I will never forget seeing the DUP come through: Peter Robinson, who was First Minister at the time, along with Arlene Foster, Nelson McCausland and Maurice Morrow. I met them in the corridor outside the wake room and burst out crying,” the youngest Harte son continues.
“Suddenly it hit me how big the whole thing was. Michaela’s death touched people on both sides of the community. The IFA held a minute’s silence at all soccer league games. Stuff like that was unheard of in the North.”
Mickey goes on to explain his bitterness towards RTÉ, detailing how they wanted to cover the funeral and then after mocked him in a skit, including playing 'Pretty Little Girl from Omagh' in it when "Michaela was dead a mere matter of months".
He writes that he confronted them but they never apologised: “Somebody from their production team left a voicemail to say that he was going to leave flowers on Michaela’s grave and call in for coffee. No flowers appeared, no visitors came.”
On the first page of his new book, Mickey discloses that he pauses beside Michaela’s picture every morning and prays. Her room looks across from his and Marian’s bedroom, and it is “still much the same as it was the night before her wedding”.
He later states: “I view my life in two parts: the life that I knew with Michaela and the one that I have known without her. The world will always be that way for me.”
'Devotion – A memoir' by Mickey Harte with Brendan Coffey is available in all good bookshops from October 14. Price UK £21.99.