Thursday 8 December 2016

'Our hopes, dreams and future are gone'

Michaela's husband tells of his heartbreak as three charged

Edel Kennedy in Mauritius, Eimear Ni Bhraonain in Tyrone and Shane Phelan

Published 13/01/2011 | 05:00

A tearful Abinash Treeboowoon at Mapou District Court in Mauritius where he was charged with Michaela's murder. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Michaela Harte and John McAreavey on their wedding day
John McAreavey captained his club Tullylish to the GAA Intermediate Championship watched by Michaela Harte
John with Michaela at a party shortly after their wedding
Michaela as a young girl on a school outing
John McAreavey's friends Justin McCartan, Francis Downey and Kevin Murphy tell of their devastation at Tullylish GAA club yesterday

THE heartbroken husband of murdered honeymooner Michaela Harte last night told of his "total devastation".

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In an emotion-laden statement, John McAreavey said Michaela, the daughter of All- Ireland winning Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, was his "best friend" and his "rock".

"She is a gift from God and I now have an angel," said Mr McAreavey, a Down footballer.

"I love my wife, very, very much and my world revolved around her.

"Our hopes, our dreams and our future together are gone."

The grieving husband's comments came just hours after three Legends Hotel staff appeared in Mapou District Court provisionally charged in connection with his wife's murder.

Police last night denied reports that two of the suspects had confessed to the crime in the hours after they appeared in court.

The body of the 27-year-old schoolteacher was found by her husband in their hotel suite on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on Monday. She had been strangled to death.

The couple were married just 10 days before her brutal murder at the Legends Hotel resort in the fishing village of Grand Gaube.

Ireland's ambassador to South Africa, Brendan McMahon, was with Mr McAreavey (30) last night helping to organise bringing Michaela's remains home.

Michaela's body remained in the morgue of the nearby Victoria Hospital last night.

It is hoped Mr McAreavey will be allowed return home with his wife's remains today or tomorrow, although police on the island have said they would like him to remain until early next week to assist with inquiries.

Mr McAreavey was being comforted by his brother Brian and Michaela's brother Mark, who arrived on the island on Tuesday night.

"I can't describe in words how lost I feel as Michaela is not just the light of my life -- she is my life," Mr McAreavey said.

"My beautiful wife, my best friend, my rock Michaela, has been taken from me and I still can't take it in."

He added: "I appreciate all the prayers and messages of support. I pray that God gives us the strength and faith that Michaela has to cope with our horrific loss.

"Our families now need the time, privacy and space to make the necessary arrangements to take Michaela home."

Rumours

Last night Inspector Ranjit Jokhoo told the Irish Independent: "There have been no confessions from any of the suspects despite numerous rumours."

Abinash Treeboowoon (29), a room attendant, and Sandip Moneea (41), a floor supervisor, were charged with murdering Michaela during an apparent botched robbery.

The third accused, room attendant Raj Theekoy (33), was charged with conspiracy to murder.

The Irish Independent has learned that all three employees had passed background checks in order to be "certified" to work at Legends Hotel.

Under the legal system in Mauritius, criminal suspects can be charged before an investigation is complete. A director of public prosecutions later decides whether to proceed with the initial charge.

All three men face up to 45 years in jail if found guilty.

There were dramatic scenes in court as the three men were charged.

The main suspect, Mr Treeboowoon, was sobbing as he was brought into the courtroom.

He told the court he was "smacked in the face by investigators" in a local police station.

"A towel was wrapped over my face and I was punched all over my body," the suspect told the magistrate.

After the statement, the suspect's legal counsel, Ravi Ratnah, asked the court to order a medical examination of his client. He also asked the magistrate to open an investigation into how the police had treated his client.

The magistrate agreed to both requests.

The men were subsequently refused bail and will appear on a procedural remand hearing on January 19.

A bail hearing will take place next month.

However, the Commissioner of Police, Dhun Iswur Rampersad, defended the conduct of his officers.

"Personally, being the head of the police, I am satisfied with the conduct of the murder inquiry which is still going on," he said.

Inquiry

Mr Rampersad said that Michaela's relatives were welcome to take her body home at any time.

However, he said police would prefer if her husband remained on in Mauritius to help with the investigation.

"It is the opinion of our inquiry officer, if he stays behind to help us with the inquiry it would be better.

"That would be a couple of days," he said.

Police superintendent Yoosoof Soopun, who is leading the murder investigation, said he believed there was "substantial evidence" to connect the suspects to the murder.

Mr Soopun said that the three men were believed to have been inside the teacher's hotel room when she returned there alone. "We presume they were inside and burgling the room when the lady returned and were surprised and attacked her," he added.

Police revealed CCTV had been of little use in the investigation.

Instead inquiries had hinged on the use of a 'dummy' key card which was used to gain access to Michaela's room.

The police also revealed Mr McAreavey discovered his new bride in the bath of their hotel suite, which was filling with water.

He pulled her on to the floor and attempted to resuscitate her.

Mr McAreavey then began to call for assistance when he saw blood on the floor.

A post-mortem examination revealed Michaela had been beaten over the head as well as being strangled.

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