Northern Ireland

Michaela Harte was strangled, Mauritius police say

Michaela McAreavey, Mickey Harte, and John McAreavey
Image caption Michaela Harte married John McAreavey on 30 December

The daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte was strangled, a post-mortem has revealed.

Michaela McAreavey was found dead in her bathtub at the four-star Legends Hotel in Mauritius during her honeymoon.

The 27-year-old Irish woman had married John McAreavey, a member of Down's Gaelic football team, on 30 December. He is not a suspect.

Police in Mauritius are questioning 10 people about the death.

They said that they are examining CCTV footage from the complex.

An official from the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, is travelling to Mauritius to help Mr McAreavey.

'No forced entry'

A post-mortem examination has found that there were marks on Mrs McAreavey's neck, police said.

Image caption The couple were staying at the Legends Hotel

Police Inspector Ranjit Jokhoo told the BBC that Mr and Mrs McAreavey had been having a cup of tea at an outdoor cafe after using the swimming pool at the Indian Ocean resort.

Ms McAreavey then went back to her room, which was about 50m away, to fetch something, said to be biscuits for her tea, Insp Jokhoo said.

When she failed to return after 20 to 30 minutes, her husband went to the room to look for her. He found her dead in the bathtub in the room.

The area has been cordoned off while the investigation continues.

The inspector said that the killer had used an electronic key card to enter the room, as there had been no forced entry. He said that nothing had been found to have been stolen.

"We are inspecting all the cards. We are trying to find out if any forged cards have been used," Insp Jokhoo said.

The Legends Hotel beach resort is situated in the fishing village of Grand Gaube, in the north-eastern corner of the island, and boasts a luxury spa, three swimming pools and five restaurants. The couple booked in last Saturday and were due to leave on Sunday.

Police say they are confident they will find the perpetrator.

"As far as I know this is the first time a tourist has been attacked and lost their life here. It's an isolated case, but still it shouldn't have happened," Insp Jokhoo said.

'Profoundly sad'

Mrs McAreavey's brother, Mark and her husband's parents, who were on holiday in Thailand when they heard the news, are on their way to Mauritius.

In Michaela McAreavey's home town of Ballygawley, the flowers from the couple's wedding less than two weeks ago remain on the altar. The roads around the Harte family home are lined with cars.

BBC NI reporter Mark Sidebottom who went to the family home said it was "profoundly sad".

"Mickey Harte is a very, very religious man. He said to me 'I am sure there must be some meaning to this, but right now, I cannot see that at the moment.'"

Mrs McAreavey taught Irish at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon, County Tyrone, and was a former contestant in the Rose of Tralee pageant.

She was very close to her father and was at his side on the three occasions that his team won the all-Ireland championship at Croke Park, Dublin, in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

He brought the couple to Dublin Airport on their journey to Mauritius following their wedding.

Gaelic football is one of the most popular sports in Ireland with players and managers often afforded celebrity status.

Fr Gerard McAleer, who managed the Tyrone team along with Mickey Harte, has been comforting the family.

He attended her wedding last month and said he had known her "all her life".

Fr McAleer said the tragedy was "compounded by the distance involved and the frustration of nobody being there with John".

Fr McAleer said he had "exhausted" his vocabulary trying to articulate his feelings about Michaela.

"Michaela was just one in a million, she was a wonderful role model. Not only did she want to teach Irish, she wanted to teach Religious Education.

"We often talked about the struggle between good and evil in the world and the importance of faith and coping with tragedy and grief and giving some kind of shape to our lives.

"To think this is the fate that awaited Michaela is beyond us."

The priest said he had talked to Mickey Harte after hearing of Michaela's death on Monday.

"I met Mickey yesterday immediately after I heard the news and he said 'She packed so much into her young life and we have so much to be thankful for' - how gracious in such a moment of intense grief."

Tourism Minister for Mauritius Nandcoomar Bodha said there would be a "fully fledged" investigation into Mrs McAreavey's death.

He said the island was "deeply saddened and distressed" at the tragedy.

"The people of Mauritius are shattered by this," he said,"It is the first time anything like this has happened. Our crime levels are very low, that is why we are shocked.

"Mauritius has always been a safe haven, for something like this to happen in one of the main hotels is a tragedy."

NI Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Michaela was always close to her father's side during many great days for Tyrone football.

"Her enthusiasm for her native county, for which she was an excellent ambassador, knew no bounds."

First Minister Peter Robinson and the SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie have also sent their condolences to the Harte family.

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