The daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte who was found dead on honeymoon in Mauritius may have been killed, it was claimed tonight.
Catholic Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, who married Michaela Harte to his nephew just before Christmas, admitted that it was a theory which could not be ruled out after her body was discovered in her hotel room.
He said: “We have fears that that is what happened. We have still so many unanswered questions.”
Michaela, 27, was found dead at the four-star Legends Hotel not long after she lunched with her new husband, Down senior footballer John McAreavey. She went upstairs to rest and make a cup of tea 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 then summoned. He went straight to the room and immediately tried to resuscitate the young teacher for half an hour by giving her mouth-to-mouth and heart massage. A post-mortem examination will be carried out, but it was not immediately clear how she died.
However, the bishop and the three-times All-Ireland winning manager said in a joint statement that she had been killed. Tonight the bishop was asked again if he thought the young teacher had been killed.
Outside a parochial house in Banbridge, Co Down, he said: “We fear something happened. We have still so many unanswered questions. We are still upset that she is dead and we are struggling to come to terms with that. We are like everyone else hoping that the questions surrounding her death will be answered. We are hoping that in time the position will become clearer.”
The staff member who went to the room to try and revive Mrs McAreavey and later consoled her husband made a statement to investigating police.
Afterwards he said: “John is far from home, far from his family and in a country where he does not know anybody. I am just here to provide as much help as I can. This is a terrible situation. He needs support.”
Staff at the hotel claimed she died as a result of “an accident”.
Police sources in Mauritius said tonight there was no sign that an intruder had been in the room.
She had not been suffering any ill health.
The couple married just after Christmas and were on the second leg of their honeymoon after flying out to Dubai.
Mr Harte, three times an All-Ireland winning manager, left them at Dublin Airport the day after the marriage ceremony, close to the family home near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, where people on the streets spoke tonight of their disbelief.
Staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin have been in touch with the authorities in Mauritius to find out what happened. An official from the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, is expected to arrive tomorrow.
The hotel is in the centre of the fishing village of Grand Gaube, not far from Grand Bay in the north-eastern corner of the Indian Ocean island. The couple booked in on Saturday and were due to leave on Sunday.
Mrs McAreavey taught Irish at St Patrick’s girls academy in Dungannon. She was a former Rose of Tralee contestant, a huge Tyrone GAA fan and her father’s number one cheerleader.
Friends of the team manager and his wife Marian said the couple were devoted to their only daughter, who married on December 30 at St Malachy’s Church, Ballymacilroy, not far from the family home just off the main Ballygawley-Omagh Road.
Father Brian Hackett, the family priest, said: “Her big thing was her daddy being the manager of Tyrone. She went everywhere with him. She was a religious girl. She was a dedicated Tyrone supporter.”
Journalist Adrian Logan, a former sports presenter with Ulster Television who reported extensively on Tyrone’s three All-Ireland wins in 2003, 2005 and 2008, said: “Mickey adored her. He was totally devoted. He just thought the world of her. He told me ’She’s my little jewel’.”
Mr Logan added: “He refused to do any post-match interviews after those games until she stood beside him. That’s how much she meant to him. She was his number one fan.”
A joint statement by Mr Harte and Bishop McAreavey said: “We wish to confirm that we have received confirmation this afternoon that Michaela, married on December 30 2010 to John McAreavey, was killed today in Mauritius where the couple were on honeymoon. We ask for prayers for Michaela, John and their families and loved ones.”
Hotel resident manager Xavier Arnoux said a body was found in a hotel room at around 3pm local time (11am Irish time).
He said: “We had an accident this afternoon, but we cannot speak too much about it because it is in police hands now. It appears that a husband found the body of his wife.”
Mr Arnoux said a doctor was called to the scene, as were police. It is standard procedure in the event of a dead person being discovered, he said.
The hotel manager said the body was removed from the hotel for a post-mortem examination.
The staff were shocked by the incident, he said, adding that he believed the couple had been staying at the hotel for a few days.
A spokeswoman for Legends Hotels said: “We have had an accident here at the hotel. We have had one death. There is an investigation under way. The hotel management is giving all its support to the police.
“Legends wishes to reassure its guests and the public in general that it is co-operating in the best way it can with the police.
“The management and staff send its sincere condolences to the families who are grieving the loss of Michaela Harte.”
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was shocked at the death.
“Just a matter of days ago it was a joyous occasion when Michaela married John and no doubt they planned a long and happy life together,” he said.
“They had so much to live for but now their hopes have been cruelly dashed by the tragic death of Michaela.
“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.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her husband John, father Mickey, mother Marian and the entire Harte and McAreavey families at this difficult time.”