Friday 24 November 2017

Hotel room where new bride was murdered remains empty

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

NOBODY has stayed inside the hotel room where tragic Michaela Harte was brutally strangled while on honeymoon.

The five-star Legends resort on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has not allowed guests to stay in room number 1025 since Michaela's murder.

The bathtub in which the 27-year-old's body was discovered on January 10 has been removed. Curtains were drawn on the room yesterday -- and the number has been changed to 1026.

Legends general manager Brice Lunot said couples had requested to stay in the room, but he has refused out of respect to Michaela's memory and her husband John McAreavey (26).

"We have changed elements of the room," he told the Irish Independent.

"The bath, the sink, there's a new set-up, it's not a room that we rent if we don't have to. Nobody has stayed there since Michaela.

"Some people ask to stay there but out of respect to John and Michaela, I don't want them to see . . . people are very spiritual here," he added.

Mr Lunot said the name of the hotel had not been changed because he did not want anybody to forget what had happened.

"What is the point of hiding it?" he asked.

Business is down, unsurprisingly. "If we compare ourselves to the competition, we are not behind but it is a difficult year," said Mr Lunot.

"What happened definitely affected the reputation of the hotel."

The hotel, currently in its winter season, is not busy.

The hotel employs 450 people on the island and accommodates more than 500 guests.

Mr Lunot also revealed that he was "ashamed" of what had happened and that Michaela and John were the "ideal couple" before the tragedy.

"They were a young, beautiful couple," he said.

"You feel ashamed because you are in charge of this hotel. I want justice for Michaela. I want the one who has committed this to be brought to justice," he said.

"The Harte family wants to make sure that the people who are in jail are the right people and they don't want quick justice.

"Mickey Harte is such a strong man, he is an example for everyone, him and John are exceptionally strong and good people."

The hotel manager said the family was his priority and his staff had co-operated fully with the police. "Everything they wanted to have, we gave them."

There are plans to install more cameras around the hotel after a security audit by a South African company.

The firm informed the hotel that their security was strong but it was aimed at outsiders. It is now extending CCTV coverage from 25 to 85 cameras.

However, there is no visible CCTV outside the room where Michaela was murdered.

Mr Lunot described how there was an outpouring of support from the Irish community to Mr McAreavey after he discovered his wife had been murdered. "People were calling the hotel every day," he said.

One person who made inquiries was singer Chris de Burgh who was holidaying in the nearby One and Only hotel in Le Saint Geran with his family in January when the devastating news broke.

Mr Lunot showed staff a RTE film about the killing to help prepare them for the pre-trial.

They gathered inside a cinema in the hotel to watch footage of the Hartes and McAreavey families.

"Everybody here was very affected by what happened," he said before adding that psychologists had spoken to some staff members.

Irish Independent

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