Poignant picture recalls honeymoon happiness

AN image of pure happiness — a honeymoon photo of murdered Michaela Harte with her husband John has been shared by the heartbroken groom ahead of her funeral.

It was just a casual picture, taken on a warm evening by an accommodating passer-by.

On a balcony with the lights flickering on the water behind them, an embrace between two sunkissed newly-weds hopelessly in love and looking forward to a new life together.

To friends they were inseparable, known simply as Mic and Mac.

Now the picture will be treasured forever by the young teacher’s devastated husband, who took the difficult decision to share it with the people of Ireland as he prepared to bury his sweetheart today in a graveyard beside the church where they married just after Christmas.

He felt another picture with the love of his life outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris also showed how much she meant to him.

Michaela was killed last Monday by thieves she interrupted in her hotel room in Mauritius.

President Mary McAleese will head dignitaries among thousands expected to attend requiem Mass at St Malachy’s Church, Ballymacilroy, just a few miles outside the Co Tyrone village of Ballygawley this afternoon.

The funeral for the devout tee-total Catholic, who was the daughter of Mickey Harte, the celebrated manager of Tyrone’s gaelic football team, is set to be one of the biggest the county has ever witnessed.

Senior officials from the GAA, including president Christy Cooney and Ulster secretary Danny Murphy, will be joined by the president of the Ulster rugby branch Nigel Hamilton and Irish Football Association president Jim Shaw.

As Michaela’s coffin is taken from her parents’ home on the nearby Glencull Road, where hundreds have visited during a two-day wake, players from Harte’s Tyrone team and his home club Errigal Ciaran will form a guard of honour.

Outside the church her remains will be flanked by John McAreavey’s team-mates from the Tullylish GAA club in Co Down and pupils from the late Irish teacher’s form class in St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.

A marquee for 300 people has been erected in the church grounds to cope with some of the overspill from the 400-capacity chapel. Countless more are expected to stand outside in the car park and beyond.

Primate of the Catholic Church of Ireland Sean Brady will be among senior clerics at a service led by Mr McAreavey’s uncle Bishop John McAreavey, who married the couple on December 30.

Michaela’s rosary beads, a Pioneer pin representing her abstinence from alcohol, a Fáinne emblem symbolising her love of the Irish language and a Tyrone jersey are all expected to be placed at the altar.

After Mass, her coffin will be carried over a small stream to the adjoining cemetery for burial.

Such were the numbers wishing to sympathise with the Harte and McAreavey families over the weekend a park-and-ride facility was set up to take people to the house on the outskirts of Ballygawley.

Stormont’s first and deputy first ministers were among those who visited.

Democratic Unionist Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness were joined by Sports Minister Nelson McCausland, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Justice Committee chairman Lord Morrow.

That four of the political delegation visiting the home of a celebrated gaelic games family were DUP representatives said much for the changed political climate in the North.

Mr McGuinness and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will attend the funeral as will SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie.

Ulster Unionists Mike Nesbitt and Allan Rainey, an Omagh District councillor who lives close to the Hartes, are expected as well.

Michaela Harte’s body was brought to the house on Friday night, ending the long and painful journey from the Indian Ocean island.

It is a death that has touched all of Ireland and had a deep impact in Mauritius too.

Anglican Archbishop of Mauritius Ian Ernest said he felt his community wanted to seek forgiveness from the Irish people.

“There are lessons to learn for all of us but our country is a peaceful country, our country is a beautiful country and we have lots to offer to the world,” he added.

Three employees at the Legends Hotel where she was killed have been charged in connection with the death, two with murder and one with conspiracy to murder.

Police say one of the murder accused, room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon, 29, has confessed to the killing.

His co-accused, floor supervisor Sandip Moneea, 41, has made no such admission.

It is understood Treebhoowoon admitted the crime after the third accused, room attendant Raj Theekoy, 33, made a statement implicating him and Moneea. Theekoy is charged with conspiracy because he allegedly passed along the corridor while the struggle was taking place but, despite hearing screams, did nothing to stop it and failed to report it.

Skin tissue found under Michaela Harte’s fingernails could prove crucial to the case with the results of DNA tests due in the coming days.

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