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Murder probe as Michaela found strangled in room

MICHAELA Harte was strangled to death in her hotel room, police confirmed today.

The daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte was discovered by her husband in their hotel suite on the honeymoon island of Mauritius.

Michaela (27) had returned to her room to make a cup of tea when it is believed she came across an intruder.

Down footballer John McAreavey discovered his bride's body beside the bath.

Reports stated that Michaela -- a former Rose of Tralee contestant -- had struggled with her attacker, sustaining bruises to her head and other parts of her body.

Police said today that they have a list of six suspects, all from the locality, and were confident of solving the case.

The murder has saddened the entire nation, and left Michaela's family devastated.

Mickey Harte today described his daughter as his "little jewel", while Ryan Tubridy, who hosted the Rose of Tralee in 2004, said Michaela was "the perfect Rose".

Superintendent Yusuf Soopun today confirmed the cause of death as "strangulation" but said there was no evidence of a sexual assault.

Speaking before the latest revelations, Michaela's devastated father Mickey said it was "too early" to say anything.

"But the end result is the same ... we have lost our beautiful girl. She was just 27 on the 31st (of December) the day after she got married. We have lost our girl," an anguished Mickey said.

The three-time Tyrone All-Ireland winning manager described her as his "little jewel".

Michaela was an only daughter, but had three brothers. The young teacher's death was the fourth tragedy to hit the family in a matter of months, following the deaths of two uncles and her grandmother.

Mr McAreavey, Michaela's husband of just 11 days, found his wife dead in her room at Legends Hotel in Grand Gaube around 12 midday Irish time.

Mr Soopun said John and Michaela were having lunch in the hotel restaurant "when at a certain point in time the wife returned to the room".

When she did not return after 10 minutes, Mr McAreavey went to look for her and found her body in their room, No 1025. He phoned hotel management who informed the police.

"We are confident that by this afternoon this case will be solved. We have a list of six potential suspects. We are confident case will be solved," Mr Soopun told RTE Radio's Morning Ireland. He added that "we are confident" that there was "no sexual assault".

Mr McAreavey was questioned by police but he is not being treated as a suspect.

"We do have CCTV camera around the hotel but for the privacy of the clients we don't have them inside the room," Mr Soopun revealed. "We believe that when the lady entered the room, maybe somebody was inside the room and was trying to steal something and she surprised the person and that person killed her," he added.

There was no sign of a forced entry and the intruder used "the magnetic key to get inside the room".

Mr Soopun said security at the hotel is extremely tight and it was the first time such an incident had occurred.

Michaela's body was found lying on her back on the floor near the bathtub and and frantic attempts were made by one porter to revive Michaela with emergency heart massage but it was already too late.

Bishop John McAreavey, an uncle of the groom, married the couple on December 30 at St Malachy's Church at Ballymacilroy and 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," he said.

An Irish diplomat flew into Mauritius from South Africa to assist both families.

News of the death was met with an outpouring of sympathy and deep shock. Mickey Harte and Tyrone GAA were hit by tragedy in 2004 when star player Cormac McAnallen (24) died from sudden cardiac arrest.

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

Leave your tribute to Michaela Harte at announcement.ie