Thursday 22 March 2018

Police probe honeymoon death of GAA giant's 'little jewel'

Michaela Harte's body found on floor in hotel

Michaela Harte at her wedding with new husband John McAreavey and dad Mickey Harte
Michaela Harte and her father Mickey celebrate after he managed Tyrone to victory over Armagh in the 2003 All-Ireland football final at Croke Park. Photo: Frank McGrath
Michaela pictured during the Rose of Tralee festival in Co Kerry in 2004
Michaela Harte with her husband John McAreavey
Michaela with her dad at Queen's University Belfast in 2006 after he received an honorary doctorate for services to Gaelic football and she received a bachelor of education
Michaela pictured with her dad at the same occasion
Michaela at the Rose of Tralee launch with Ryan Tubridy and the other 2004 contestants
Michaela as the Ulster Rose in 2004

Patricia McDonagh, Grainne Cunningham and Edel O'Connell

POLICE were last night investigating the mystery death of Michaela Harte (27), daughter of Tyrone's All-Ireland-winning football manager Mickey.

Ms Harte (27), a former Rose of Tralee contestant, was found dead in her Mauritius hotel where she was on honeymoon with new husband, Co Down footballer John McAreavey. Her devastated father, the three-time Tyrone All-Ireland winning manager, last night described Michaela as his "little jewel".

Bishop John McAreavey, an uncle of the groom, married the couple on December 30 at St Malachy's Church at Ballymacilroy. Standing outside a parochial house in Banbridge, Co Down, he said many questions remained unanswered and Michaela could have been the victim of a crime outside of the two families.

He said: "We fear something happened. We have fears that that is what happened. There are still so many unanswered questions. We are upset that she is dead. That is what we are struggling to come to terms with."

Bishop McAreavey added: "We are like everyone else. We hope that the questions that surround her death will be answered. We hope in time the situation will become clearer."

As an Irish diplomat flew into Mauritius from South Africa to assist both families, it emerged Mr McAreavey, Michaela's husband of just 11 days, found his wife dead in her room at Legends Hotel in Grand Gaube around 4pm.

He immediately raised the alarm with management and frantic attempts were made by one porter to revive Michaela with emergency heart massage.

Police were then called to the scene. A spokesman for police headquarters in Mauritius last night said Ms Harte had been found lying on her back on the floor near the bathtub.

However, he said it is still unclear what caused her death.

Ms Harte's father said in a statement that she had been "killed". Staff at the hotel claimed she died as a result of "an accident".

But Bishop McAreavey said he stood over using the expression "killed" in his joint statement with the Tyrone manager.

Police said last night there was no sign that an intruder had been in the room. She had not been suffering any ill health.

The couple arrived at the hotel on Saturday and were due to leave next Sunday. They had spent the first leg of their honeymoon in Dubai.

Ms Harte was found dead not long after she lunched with her husband. She went upstairs to rest but when she failed to reappear, he became concerned and discovered her body in their room. A hotel porter was nearby at the time. A second member of staff was summoned.

He went straight to the room and immediately tried to resuscitate the young teacher for half an hour.

As her distraught family at home in Co Tyrone were told the news, her body was being taken to the Princess Margaret Orthopaedic Centre in Mauritius. There, later today, an autopsy is due to be conducted on her body at 10am. Hotel staff are also due to be interviewed.

News of the death was met with an outpouring of sympathy and profound shock last night.

Mr Harte and Tyrone GAA were scarred by tragedy in 2004 when star player Cormac McAnallen (24) died from sudden cardiac arrest.

Last night, Cormac's mother Bridget said: "I really feel heartfelt sympathy for the family. I can imagine how they must feel."

Ms Harte, an Irish teacher at St Patrick's Girls Academy in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was famously close to her father, who drove the newly married couple to Dublin airport.

Journalist Adrian Logan, a former sports presenter with UTV, said: "Mickey adored her. She was his number one fan."

Mr Harte's wife Marian was left devastated some months ago when her mother passed away.

In a statement last night the hotel said it was shocked at the death and was cooperating with a police investigation.

Irish Independent

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