Friday 28 April 2017

Michaela killed after disturbing intruder

'She was a gem, our hearts are broken,' says devastated dad

Michaela Harte in fancy dress at St Malachy's Primary School, where she had attended as a pupil and later performed her teaching placement
Mickey and Marian Harte
Balloons bearing Michaela and John's names were still in evidence yesterday on a signpost near St Malachy's Church where the young couple got married just weeks ago
Michaela and John on their wedding day
Michaela Harte at the Rose of Tralee in 2004 with escort Barry Mollaghan (left) and host Ryan Tubridy

Shane Phelan, Edel O'Connell and Luke Byrne

HOTEL computer records show an intruder entered Michaela Harte's room just two minutes before she was attacked and murdered on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

Police in Mauritius were last night poised to charge three men in connection with the murder of Ms Harte, daughter of Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte.

It is understood officers have completed preliminary inquiries and are satisfied they have enough evidence to bring the three before the courts.

Yesterday, it emerged the intruder used a 'dummy' magnetic key card to gain access to Ms Harte's room at 3.42pm on Monday. Just two minutes later, Michaela (27) used her key to enter the room, where police believe she disturbed the intruder.

A post mortem showed she was strangled and suffered blows to the head after putting up a fierce struggle.

Yesterday, her devastated father Mickey, flanked by two of his sons, said at the family home: "Our hearts are broken.

"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."

Police said suspects in the killing included staff members and former employees of the Legends Hotel in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, where Ms Harte was honeymooning with her husband, Down footballer John McAreavey.

Michaela, a schoolteacher and former Rose of Tralee contestant, had returned to her room to get some biscuits, leaving her husband waiting for her in a nearby poolside restaurant.

He discovered her body 15 minutes later in the suite's bathroom after growing concerned when she failed to return.

The couple had married just 11 days beforehand.

Chief police medical officer Dr Sudesh Kumar Gungadin told the Irish Independent Ms Harte had suffered blows to the head and that significant bruising was discovered around her scalp.

Traces of blood were also discovered in the bathtub beside her body and under her fingernails. Blood samples are now being analysed to see if the killer left any DNA evidence behind.

Police yesterday quizzed 10 people, all believed to be hotel staff. "We are not going to say that these people are suspects. We are treating them as potential witnesses," investigating police inspector Ranjit Jokhoo told the Irish Independent.

He added that Mr McAreavey, who was also questioned following the discovery of his wife's body, was not considered a suspect.

"At this stage we don't have anything against Mr McAreavey. In fact, we see he is very upset about his wife," said Inspector Jokhoo.

"Witnesses have confirmed that his wife was gone for 15 minutes before he went to look for her."

Inspector Jokhoo said police believed it was possible the intruder was "an employee of the hotel or a former employee who had access to magnetic key cards".

The inspector said technical experts were now analysing the hotel's computer records to see if they can help identify who was in possession of the 'dummy' key card.

A spokesman for Naiade Resorts Ltd, which runs the Legends resort, denied a breakdown in security was to blame for Ms Harte's murder.

Distraught

As Mauritian government ministers insisted the island was safe for visitors, relatives of Michaela's distraught husband were due to arrive.

They will accompany Michaela's body home to Ireland as early as next week.

Last night, Mr Harte said he, his wife Marian, and their sons Mark, Michael and Matthew were struggling to come to terms with the shocking news.

"She was a beautiful girl. She couldn't be better, couldn't be nicer. God love her, we are so, so sorry," he said.

"We are equally sorry for poor John her husband whom she adored. He adored her. They did not get so long to share their lives with each other."

The couple were married on December 30 in Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone. Bishop John McAreavey, an uncle of the groom, had officiated at the ceremony.

Mr Harte had dropped them at the airport in Dublin a few days later as they set out on their honeymoon.

"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," said Mr Harte last night.

"The lad is devastated. He is a wonderful young man."

An official from the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, arrived in Mauritius to assist Mr McAreavey yesterday. The Irish Ambassador to South Africa is also due to arrive today.

Michaela's brother Mark and a relative of Mr McAreavey are also travelling to the island.

Mauritius's Tourism Minister Nando Bodha said Mr McAreavey was "very distressed". He said Mr McAreavey had asked him to relay a simple message home: "I love my wife."

Mr Bodha added: "The people of Mauritius are shocked. We share the distress and sadness of the family."

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News