Wednesday 18 October 2017

A marriage cruelly, brutally cut short after just 12 days

Edel Kennedy

IT began where all good Irish love stories start -- in the pub.

Although Michaela Harte was a committed Pioneer, her friends say she enjoyed going to the pub with friends.

And it was in the Botanic Inn in Belfast in 2005 that Michaela -- just shy of her 22nd birthday -- first met John McAreavey.

She was in Belfast, studying teaching at St Mary's University College, while John, then aged 20, was taking a course in business management at Queen's University.

"At a student night, mutual friends introduced us and that was that," John said, recalling when he met his future wife.

"We just really got on like a house on fire and from then on it was just a matter of planning the rest of our days together.

"She was as comfortable with me as I was with her. It was a straight road where we were going. We were pretty much inseparable."

They were quickly nicknamed 'Mic and Mac' by friends who joked about how you could never find one without the other.

Between 2005 and their wedding in December 2010, they spent just three days apart -- "three painful days", according to John.

They saw each other daily whilst in college in Belfast and would regularly call to each other's family home at weekends. They were welcomed into each other's family with open arms from day one.

In December 2008, after three years of going out together, John whisked his girlfriend away to Paris for a romantic holiday where he got down on one knee and proposed with a gold ring with a large diamond.

The pair were pictured just afterwards, with beaming smiles and their arms around each other in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. They immediately began planning not only their wedding, but the purchase of their family home.

Shortly after their engagement they bought a two-storey detached house in Lawrencetown, near Banbridge, Co Down, which was just two miles from John's parents' home.

But unlike many young couples, they opted not to move in together until they were wed and instead decorated the house, had the garden landscaped and then rented out the property.

They wanted their marriage to not just be a continuation of their lives, but a completely new start together.

John said they wanted their home to be "new and magical and something to look forward to after our honeymoon".

Their wedding took place at St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone, almost exactly two years after their engagement.

In the days running up to their wedding on December 30, 2010, they began to prepare for the big move into their home. They planned to spend their first night there together on their return from honeymoon.

A friend told how they moved furniture and other household goods into the house.

Michaela wanted their new home to be "just so" when they returned on January 16 from their honeymoon while John was said to be "happy as Larry" about the new life that he was preparing to start.

"Michaela had a good eye, everything in the house was just perfect," said one friend. "It was exactly how they wanted their family home to be."

The members of Tullylish GAA had "embraced Michaela as one of their own" and she was looking forward to cheering him on at local games.

Orla O'Shea, who won the Rose of Tralee in the year when Michaela was a contestant, had spoken to Michaela in the weeks leading up to their wedding day and the beginning of their lives together as husband and wife.

"She was so excited," she recalled. "She said she could not stop giggling at the rehearsal. She was a charm, a real presence. . . and her family were so proud of her."

Wedding

Michaela's family said it was a real "family wedding", made extra-special because John was the first sibling in his family to get married and Mickey got the opportunity to walk his only daughter down the aisle.

Michaela spent hours poring over magazines and planning the big day. But friends said she never lost sight of what it was all really about.

She took her vows very seriously and knew that it wasn't all about the big day out -- it was about pledging yourself to someone and building a life together.

"She was a perfectionist and she had a clear idea from the beginning of what she wanted.

"But it was the marriage she was really looking forward to.

"She knew she would be spending the rest of her life with John and she couldn't wait to become his wife."

On December 30, 2010, the couple said their vows in front of almost 300 family and friends and the next morning Mickey Harte drove the newlyweds to Dublin Airport, from where they caught a flight to Dubai for the first leg of their honeymoon.

They spent several happy days in Dubai, before jetting onwards to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean on January 8.

It was there that their love story was tragically cut short.

Michaela had spent a lot of time researching their honeymoon as it was one of only a handful of times during their year they could go abroad for a couple of weeks because of her teaching schedule.

"Michaela was always adamant that she wanted to see Mauritius," said John during the trial. "She was the one who suggested Legends Hotel. She had read good reviews and it was very popular with Irish honeymooners."

But on January 10, 2011, she was murdered when she went back to their hotel bedroom to get some chocolate.

The day had started out normally. The couple woken up, had breakfast together and then John went and had a golf lesson while Michaela lay by the pool and topped up her tan.

After having lunch together, Michaela did what she always did -- had a cup of tea with some chocolate. Because of the heat, the couple had put some Kit Kat bars in the fridge in the room -- and that is where Michaela was murdered.

"Even the greatest literary scribes could never adequately describe what John had to face on that fateful day and the depths of despair to which he plummeted by the needless evil of others," said her grief-stricken father afterwards.

Giving evidence at the murder trial last month, John said that just three days after their arrival on the paradise island, on January 10, 2011, his future was ruined. The couple had been married a mere 12 days.

"Everything finished that day, my life, Michaela's life -- our dreams destroyed.

"The dreams of our children... everything in one moment destroyed. But I have a deep faith and the support of family and friends to guide me through this journey."

Irish Independent

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