Murder of Michaela McAreavey
31 December 1983
Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
|Died||10 January 2011
Grand Gaube, Rivière du Rempart District, Mauritius
Cause of death
|10 January 2011,
Legends Hotel (renamed LUX Grand Gaube) in Grand Gaube, Mauritius
|St. Malachy's Cemetery, Ballymacilroy|
|Alma mater||St. Mary's University College,
Queen's University Belfast
|Employer||St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon|
|Known for||Association with the Tyrone Gaelic football team,
Participation in The Rose of Tralee,
Being murdered on her honeymoon
|Home town||Ballygawley, County Tyrone, County Tyrone|
|Parents||Mickey and Marian Harte|
Michaela McAreavey née Harte (Irish: Micheáilín Mhic Giolla Riabhaigh née Ní hÁirt, 31 December 1983 – 10 January 2011), while on her honeymoon in Mauritius, was found strangled in the bathtub of her hotel room. The daughter of Tyrone's multiple All-Ireland Senior Football Championship-winning Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, her death and subsequent events prompted continuing widespread international media coverage.
It was the first murder of a tourist in Mauritius; the Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam expresses his sympathy to the Harte and McAreavey families. Two hotel workers who were accused of her murder have been tried and declared not-guilty by the Supreme Court of Mauritius, they were acquitted on 12 July 2012.
Michaela McAreavey, born Michaela Harte, was a 27-year-old Irish language teacher from Glencull (Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) and the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte. She had been the Ulster Rose at the 2004 Rose of Tralee.
In the words of GAA president Christy Cooney, "Michaela was a familiar face to so many GAA followers up and down the country, having been at her father's side through what has been the most memorable period in the history of the GAA in Tyrone."
Michaela was Catholic and a Pioneer and was seen to be religious. She taught Irish and Religion at St Patricks Academy, Dungannon, where she ran the "Pioneer Club" encouraging young people to abstain from alcohol.
On 10 January 2011, Michaela and her husband John had lunch at their hotel in Grand Gaube. After lunch, at about 2:44 p.m., she went to her room to fetch a Kit Kat to have with her tea. Investigators believe she was wrestled to the ground on entering her room and strangled. She was put into the bath tub and the water was turned on. Her body was discovered by her husband soon after.
Three male Mauritian employees of the hotel were later arrested for the murder: Avinash Treebhoowoon, Sandip Moneea and Raj Theekoy. They appeared in court in Mauritius on 12 January 2011. Treebhoowoon and Mooneea were charged with McAreavey's murder and Theekoy with conspiracy to murder. DNA tests were taken on the suspects. Dassen Narraien, and Seenarain Mungoo were arrested the following week and charged with aiding and abetting a crime. Narraien and Mungoo were both security officers at the hotel. Mungoo was released and had all charges against him dropped on 12 February 2011.
McAreavey was brought home to be waked. Notables to visit the wake included Cardinal Edward Daly; 1992 All-Ireland winning manager Brian McEniff; GAA President Christy Cooney, Northern Ireland's First Minister and deputy First Ministers, the Democratic Unionist Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness; sports minister Nelson McCausland, enterprise minister Arlene Foster and justice committee chairman Maurice Morrow, Baron Morrow. Four of these five politicians were from the other side of the political divide.
McAreavey's funeral, which took place on 17 January 2011 at the same church where she was married (St Malachy's, Ballymacilroy), less than one month before, was attended by thousands of mourners, including then President of Ireland Mary McAleese and Northern Ireland's First Minister and deputy First Minister Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. Mourners from both nationalist and loyalist communities paid their respects and offered condolences. A special mass was held simultaneously in Mauritius in memory of Michaela led by the island's senior priest, Fr Goupille.
The trial of two hotel workers accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey began in Mauritius on 22 May 2012.
On 6 June 2012, John McAreavey said he was handcuffed by police officers and they examined his body for marks. He also saw one of the accused (Avinash Treebhoowoon) on two occasions within a number of minutes the day his wife died. McAreavey said that he had gone back to the hotel room looking for his wife when she failed to return to the restaurant after leaving him to get some biscuits from their room to eat with their cups of tea. He found her unconscious in the bath, with the tap running and laid her on the floor and then tried to revive her. The DNA test made by a forensic expert from England revealed that no DNA traces of the two men accused and the other two original suspects were found on Michaela McAreavey body and at the crime scene except the DNA of John McAreavey.
The Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), in particular, faced severe criticism for its handling of the case and for claims by defendant Mr Treebhoowoon who alleges that police beat a confession out of him, he was subjected to three days of beatings by officers before he confessed that he strangled Michaela because she caught him and co-defendant Sandip Moneea stealing from her hotel room.
On 12 July 2012, the judge Prithviraj Fekna told the jurors not to worry about what ramifications any verdict may have on the reputation of Mauritius. He reminded the six men and three women that they were not politicians and it was not their job to protect the image of the country. You have been told that this will have an international ramification and will affect the image of Mauritius… this is not your role, Fekna said. You must not allow yourself to be influenced by this, you are not politicians, you have to base yourself on what has happened.
Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea were declared not-guilty by the nine member jury. In a statement released after the verdict, the McAreavey and Harte families said that following the endurance of "seven harrowing weeks of this trial" there were no words, which could "describe the sense of devastation and desolation now felt by both families". The case was originally listed to run for nine days but the verdict came in its eighth week. The jury had deliberated for two hours and returned a unanimous verdict.
Lawyers representing Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea called for all evidence in the case to be given to non-Mauritian investigators, describing Mauritius's MCIT as "incompetent".
Following the verdict of the Supreme Court of Mauritius, the Mauritian government issued a statement: "The government and the people of Mauritius understand and continue to share the grief and agony of the Harte and McAreavey families, the Government is considering all options concerning further action in this matter, with a view to bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice."
Some Irish people started an internet campaign calling for a boycott of the Mauritian tourism sector, one of the main pillars of the island's economy. However some argue that the whole Mauritian population should not be blame for the mistakes of a few people. The Irish politician Seán Kelly supported the campaign by saying: "No justice for Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius. It is a massive indictment of Mauritius authorities’ incompetence. No Irish should visit Mauritius yet until justice is done." Calls for a boycott intensified following the events of 15 July 2012.
On 15 July 2012, a new Mauritian newspaper called Sunday Times published photographs of the hotel room crime scene, including images of Michaela's body in its 35th edition. The front page featured a photograph of Michaela's body under the headline "Exclusive". A spokesperson for the Harte and McAreavey families said: “As the families struggle to come [to terms] with the result from the trial - this action by the newspaper is not only insensitive to their grief but marks another low in the treatment of John, the two families and the dignity of Michaela.”
Reacting to the publication, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stated: "On behalf of the people of Ireland, the Government will be lodging a formal complaint in the strongest possible terms, with the government of Mauritius". The McAreavey family lawyer in Mauritius, Dick Ng Sui Wa, called for the perpetrator to be arrested and asked for a full inquiry from the Commission of Police in Mauritius.
Mauritian police launched an inquiry into how the newspaper published the photographs. Police officers raided the offices of the Sunday Times newspaper on the morning of 16 July 2012. They found no photographs. On 18 July 2012, the newspaper's editor and director general, Imran Hosany, was arrested. Later that day, he appeared in court charged with related to the publication of the photographs. He was later released on bail. The Press Employees Union in Mauritius (USEP) issued a statement in support of Hosany: "Both the local press and International news agencies regularly show pictures of murder, bloodied demonstrators, corpses of people killed or injured in conflict areas, among others, The USEP considers that the treatment suffered by the editor of the Sunday Times in the hands of the Mauritius Police is disproportionate to the offences charged."
A new investigation team was set up in August 2012 to start an inquiry. Thirty-eight people were interviewed and 68 witnesses participated in a reconstruction of the circumstances of the murder and 350 DNA samples were sent to a laboratory in France. On 27 December 2012 the police submitted a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in which a suspect was named.
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