Body of Michaela Harte on way home
Published 13/01/2011 | 09:42
The body of murdered honeymooner Michaela Harte is on the way back to Ireland today for a funeral next week.
Her widower John and her brother Mark were in Mauritius as her coffin was taken from the hospital morgue to the airport, where it will be flown to London on the first stage of her journey back home.
Relatives hope her remains will arrive in London sometime early tomorrow morning and then be flown on to Belfast.
It is expected her funeral will take place close to her Co Tyrone early next week - in the same church where she wed only weeks ago.
The repatriation is taking place as police continue their investigation into the murder in the luxury Legends Hotel on Monday.
Three hotel workers have appeared in court charged in connection with the murder of the 27-year-old teacher, who was the daughter of Mickey Harte, the celebrated manager of Ireland's all-conquering Tyrone gaelic football team.
Irish Ambassador in South Africa Brendan McMahon, who is on the holiday island, said his immediate aim was to get Mrs McAreavey's remains and family members home as soon as possible.
"We are certainly very hopeful this will happen this evening," he told RTE.
"We hope and pray there will be not any last minute hitches."
Last night, 30-year-old Mr McAreavey described his late wife as his best friend who was the "rock" of his life.
The Co Down gaelic footballer said he shared his pain with Michaela's parents, Mickey and Marian, and her three brothers.
"She is a gift from God and I now have an angel," he said.
Mr McMahon said it had been extremely painful for Mr McAreavey, whose brother, brother-in-law and father arrived yesterday to support him. They will attend a memorial service at the hotel during the day.
"John is absolutely devastated. It is very upsetting. It's not an easy situation at all," Mr McMahon said.
The ambassador said the killing sent a shockwave across Mauritius, with staff at the Legends Hotel stunned.
"This afternoon there will be a memorial service the staff has organised to express solidarity," he said.
"The local parish priest will be saying a private service here for the staff and the family."
The Mauritius Police Force said two men charged with the murder were Avinash Treebhoowoon, 29, a room attendant from Plaine des Roches, and Sandip Moneea, 41, a floor supervisor from Petit Raffray. Room attendant Raj Theekoy, 33, from Ramnarain Cottage, faces the conspiracy charge.
The three defendants were remanded in police custody for a week to return to Mapou District Court next Wednesday, when they are expected either to be formally charged or released.
It is understood skin tissue found under the fingernails of Michaela could prove crucial to the police case against the men.
DNA tests on forensic evidence recovered from the body of the Irish language teacher are due to be completed by the end of the week.
The newlywed fought for her life against her attacker in her room, according to the police.
Just before lunch on Monday, Mr McAreavey found his bride's body in the bath with the water running.
It is understood the young honeymooner from near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, interrupted burglars who had gained access to the room using an electronic key card.
It is hoped a trial will take place within six months.