Hotel workers appear in court over Michaela Harte murder
Published 12/01/2011 | 10:12
Three hotel workers were remanded in custody in Mauritius today charged in connection with the murder of honeymooner Michaela Harte.
The men, all employed at the luxury Legends Hotel where the newlywed teacher was found strangled, have appeared in court in Mauritius. Two were charged with murder and one with conspiracy to murder.
Mauritius police said the two men charged with the 27-year-old's murder were Abinash Treeboowoon, 29, a room attendant from Plaine des Roches, and Sandip Moneea, 41, a floor supervisor from Petit Raffray.
Room attendant Raj Theekoy, 33, faced the conspiracy charge.
During a brief hearing they spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth, police said.
Magistrate Bono Mally remanded them in police custody for a week and they will return to court next Wednesday, when they are expected either to be formally charged or released.
Meanwhile, police commissioner Tishur Ranpersad reassured the public that a large number of experienced officers were working on the case.
At a press conference earlier, he said detectives were doing their best to solve it.
Police sergeant Lindsay Mirthil described it as a "very unusual" case.
Mrs Harte was on honeymoon in the island paradise when she was found strangled in her room in the Legends Hotel complex.
Supt Yoosoof Soopun, who is leading the murder investigation, said: "We believe we have substantial evidence to connect them [the three arrested] to the case.
Mr Soopun said the three men were believed to be inside the teacher's hotel room when she returned alone.
"We presume they were inside and burgling the room when the lady returned and were surprised and attacked her," he added.
Six people had been questioned in connection with the killing.
Last night Michaela's heartbroken father Mickey spoke of his devastation over the death of his "beautiful" daughter.
"This is the worst nightmare that anyone can imagine. If you think things can be bad, then you go beyond that because that is where we are," he said.
Mr Harte said his family had been left shattered.
The newlyweds were married less than two weeks ago near to the Harte family home on the outskirts of Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
Outside the house last night Mr Harte stood with two of his three sons, Matthew and Michael, and said: "This is too horrible to contemplate. We are just all devastated. It is the worst of the worst and our hearts are broken."
His other son Mark is expected to arrive in Mauritius today with a brother of Michaela's husband, John McAreavey, who is a Down senior Gaelic footballer.
Earlier yesterday a police officer in Mauritius said the young Irish language teacher had tried to save herself after it appears she found intruders in her room.
"The victim fought for her life. There was a struggle in the room," he said.
A post-mortem examination revealed that she had been strangled.
She was found dead in the hotel room by her husband, who is not being treated as a suspect, after she had left him in the restaurant of their four-star hotel 45 minutes earlier to fetch biscuits for her tea.
Her father said: "We just loved our Michaela. She was such a good girl. Every father says that about their daughter, but I can say that without a shadow of doubt.
"She was a gem and we will always remember her.
"What a day she had on her wedding day. She was just radiant, a beautiful girl, and I just love her to bits. So does her whole family. We are so devastated.
"The McAreavey family are so special to us too. There is a special bond. John is a special lad. You have to be special if you're going to be Michaela's husband.
"John is out in Mauritius. He is isolated out there. It has been an awful time. Our hearts go out to him and I would ask everyone to please respect his privacy."
Meanwhile, an official from the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, has arrived on the island to assist Mr McAreavey.
The Irish Ambassador in South Africa, Brendan McMahon, will travel there today to lend his support.
The hotel is in the centre of the fishing village of Grand Gaube, not far from Grand Bay in the north-eastern corner of the island. The couple booked in on Saturday and were due to leave on Sunday.
Mr McAreavey spoke with a government minister in Mauritius and asked him to relay a simple message home: "I love my wife."