Michaela Harte strangled in her hotel room
Published 11/01/2011 | 09:00
The daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte was murdered in her hotel room, police in Mauritius confirmed today.
A post-mortem examination on 27-year-old teacher Michaela Harte revealed that she had been strangled.
She was found dead in the room by her new husband, Down senior Gaelic footballer John McAreavey.
The couple were on honeymoon after getting married less than two weeks ago.
Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun, from the Mauritius Police Force, said officers had identified six potential suspects and were confident of an arrest later today.
He said Mr McAreavey was in the restaurant of the hotel when his wife was murdered.
"She had gone back to the room to get some biscuits to put in her tea and, when she failed to return, her husband went to look for her," he said.
"When he found her in the room, she had been killed. He tried to help her but she was already dead.
"A post-mortem has showed she was strangled, she died from neck compression."
Mr Soopun said the killer had used an electronic key card to enter the room.
"There was no forced entry into the room," he said.
"Whoever killed her definitely used an electronic card."
He added: "This is being viewed with much concern by the police and government of Mauritius. We are doing everything we can to find whoever was responsible."
A member of staff at the four-star Legends Hotel, who went to the room to try to revive the young teacher, later consoled her husband as he made a statement to police.
Afterwards he told the Press Association: "John is far from home, far from his family and in a country where he does not know anybody. I am just here to provide as much help as I can. This is a terrible situation. He needs support."
Michaela's brother Mark and a member of the McAreavey family are expected to fly out to the Indian Ocean island today.
The couple were on the second leg of their honeymoon after flying out to Dubai.
Mr Harte left them at Dublin Airport the day after the marriage ceremony, close to the family home near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
An official from the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, is to arrive today to assist Mr McAreavey.
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.
Mrs McAreavey taught Irish at St Patrick's Girls Academy in Dungannon. She was a former Rose of Tralee contestant, a huge Tyrone GAA fan and her father's number one cheerleader.
Friends of the team manager and his wife Marian said the couple were devoted to their only daughter, who married at St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy, on December 30.
The Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, who married the teacher to his nephew, said the young footballer was devastated.
"She was the love of his life, absolutely and truly. He adored her and talked about her with such warmth," he said.
"He loved everything about her: her faith, her personality, her love for things Gaelic and Irish, her sparkle.
"I have a sense tonight that a light has gone out with the death of Michaela."
Father Brian Hackett, the Harte family's priest, said: "Her big thing was her daddy being the manager of Tyrone. She went everywhere with him. She was a religious girl. She was a dedicated Tyrone supporter."
Journalist Adrian Logan, a former sports presenter with Ulster Television who reported extensively on Tyrone's All-Ireland wins in 2003, 2005 and 2008, said: "Mickey adored her. He was totally devoted. He just thought the world of her. He told me 'She's my little jewel'."
Mr Logan added: "He refused to do any post-match interviews after those games until she stood beside him. That's how much she meant to him. She was his number one fan."
The North's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness passed on their condolences.
Mr Robinson said: "It was with deep sadness that I learnt of the death of Michaela Harte. I would like to pass my deepest condolences to her husband John, her father Mickey and to all of her family."
Mr McGuinness said: "Just a matter of days ago it was a joyous occasion when Michaela married John (McAreavey) and no doubt they planned a long and happy life together.
"They had so much to live for but now their hopes have been cruelly dashed by the tragic death of Michaela."