Friday 15 December 2017

Grave serves as reminder of a family seeking solace in darkest of times

A FLICKERING candle burning brightly in the hall of the Harte home was the most powerful signal -- if one was needed -- that here was a family desperate for peace to reflect.

With devastated widower John McAreavey home from Mauritius over the weekend, following the failed prosecution in the murder trial, the Harte and McAreavey families are left to pick up the pieces alone.

But it was clear there was some solace to be found at Michaela's graveside, set in the rolling hills of her beloved Ballymcilroy, Co Tyrone.

An enormous fresh sheaf of beautiful lilies and roses had been laid over the weekend, and the grave was immaculately tended.

A photograph on the temporary wooden cross of a radiant Michaela (27) on her wedding day was a poignant reminder that she had died while still a bride.

A homemade St Brigid's Cross, spangled with pink glitter and placed on the grave, served as a reminder that she had also been a teacher.

At Sunday morning Mass in nearby Ballygawley, prayers were offered for the Harte and McAreavey families, that they might find "courage and strength at this difficult time".

Amongst the congregation, glances were exchanged by concerned neighbours, all too aware of the suffering being endured.

There was no answer at the door of Mickey Harte's home, where his football bag was clearly visible in the hall, placed there after the team's brave victory in the football championship qualifiers against Roscommon.

The Tyrone manager -- whose staunchest supporter had been Michaela herself -- attended the match and brought the team through to the third round of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.

Throughout it all, Mickey Harte looked steely and determined -- and had given an impassioned pep talk to the Tyrone squad, driving them to victory.

Just hours earlier on Saturday morning, his son-in-law, John McAreavey had arrived back home in Ireland.

His face was drawn and exhausted by the seven-week ordeal of a trial which had culminated in disappointment.

He was accompanied by his sister Claire and Michaela's brother, Mark, who had remained with him in Mauritius.

The group had travelled overnight on a 14-hour flight from Mauritius, during which the bitter knowledge that nobody has yet been brought to justice over Michaela's horrific murder must have played heavily on their minds.

They landed in Dublin on Saturday morning on an Aer Lingus flight from Gatwick and were whisked through the airport, away from prying eyes, through the VIP exit where a car was waiting to drive them to Ballygawley.

Later that day, looking preoccupied and grief-stricken, John went for a walk with friends in the countryside near the home in Lawrencetown -- where he and Michaela had built the house of their dreams and outfitted it with everything they would need as a young married couple.

Instead, their dream of happiness ended on honeymoon, when Michaela was found dead in the bathtub of her hotel room. She had gone there to fetch a Kit-Kat to eat with her cup of tea after a poolside lunch with her husband.

The confusion of a failed murder investigation exploded into anger yesterday when it emerged that pictures of Michaela's body had been published in a Mauritian newspaper. It was the final insult to Michaela's memory, thousands of miles removed from the simple tributes left at her grave in a village in Co Tyrone.

Irish Independent

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