herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Bride’s last journey

MICHAELA Harte's body was being flown home from Mauritius today accompanied by her heartbroken husband and family.

The honeymooner's remains were moved from the morgue to the airport on the island this morning.

It came as police secured two confessions and DNA evidence conclusively linked one of the three charged men with the crime.

Police in Mauritius say the former Rose of Tralee contestant's attackers were in her room to steal jewellery and cash when she disturbed them and they killed her in a moment of panic.

A distraught John McAreavey helped investigators by reconstructing the agonising moments when he came across his wife's body.

Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun, who is leading the probe, said: “We did a reconstruction with the husband today.

“He had to show to police when he opened the door, where he found his wife, what he did next, how he removed the body form the bath and placed it on the floor, how he tried to resuscitate her,” Supt Soopun said.

BODY

The body of the 27-year-old teacher was found by her husband in the bathtub of their honeymoon suite at the Legends Hotel on the Indian Ocean island on Monday.

Michaela, the daughter of All-Ireland winning Tyrone boss Mickey Harte, had been strangled.

Three men, all staff at the hotel where the newlyweds were staying, have appeared in court charged in connection with the killing.

Police confirmed at a press conference this morning that Michaela's body, accompanied by her family, was due to leave Mauritius this evening.

John and Michaela were married just 10 days before her brutal murder in the fishing village of Grand Gaube.

Ireland's ambassador to South Africa, Brendan McMahon, was with Mr McAreavey (30) helping to organise bringing Michaela's remains home.

Michaela's body remained in the morgue of the nearby Victoria Hospital until today.

Avinash Treebhowoon (29), a room attendant, and Sandip Mooneea (41), a floor supervisor, were charged with murdering Michaela during an apparent botched robbery.

The third accused, room attendant Raj Theekhoy (33), was charged with conspiracy to murder. Police chief Dhun Iswar Rampersad told local crime reporter Gilles Martial that two suspects, Treebhowoon and Theekhoy, had confessed.

Mr Theekhoy told the police yesterday evening that he heard noise in Michaela's room and witnessed Treebhowoon leaving the room, looking as though he was not in his “normal state”.

Based on his confession, the police questioned Mr Treebhowoon who, it is understood, was accompanied by his lawyer, Mr Ravi Rutnah.

CONFESSION

Police Chief Rampersad revealed that Mr Treebhowoon then admitted to the murder and pointed to the third suspect, Sandip Mooneea (41), as his accomplice.

The full confession has not been made official yet as it is understood that it has yet to be signed.

Mr Treebhowoon appeared to have told the police he went in the room with one of his colleagues to steal the purses full of money and mobile phones that he noticed in the room.

The door opened as he was looking for more valuables to steal with his accomplice.

That is when Mr Treebhowoon is understood to have fought with Michaela and eventually killed her.

The events that led to Michaela's death will be reconstructed with the suspects this afternoon at 4pm in Mauritius.

If proven guilty, Mr Treebhowoon and Mr Mooneea face 18 to 45 years in prison while Mr Theekhoy could get 12 to 30 years for his alleged crime of conspiracy.

Mauritian authorities are expected to ask for maximum sentences if the men are convicted, due to the tarnishing of the island's international image.

Reports stated that Treebhowoon had admitted fighting Michaela in her bedroom before pushing her into the bathtub and strangling her.

Investigating officers believe that, once the tragic newlywed was wrestled to the ground, she was dragged into the bathtub and strangled before the water was turned on.

It had been initially feared that Mr McAreavey would have to stay behind in Mauritius as the investigation continued but it now appears he will be able to leave tonight with his wife's remains.

The admissions by two of the suspects were taped by police and the main accused, Treebhowoon, was due to sign his confession today.

The third accused man, Sandip Mooneea, was brought to police headquarters this morning and the confessions of the other two men were put to him.

CRYING

All three of the accused had passed background checks in order to be “certified” to work at Legends Hotel.

There were dramatic scenes in court as the three men were charged. Avinash Treebhoowoon was crying as he was brought into the courtroom and told the court he was “smacked in the face by investigators” in a local police station.

“A towel was wrapped over my face and I was punched all over my body,” the suspect told the magistrate.

However, police said that subsequent medical examinations found no evidence of the violence.

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