herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Tragic Michaela’s killers tried to make it look like suicide

MICHAELA Harte’s killers tried to fake her suicide, police said today as they charged three men on the island of Mauritius.

Her body, dressed in a swimsuit, was found floating face upwards in the bath of her hotel room at the Legends resort.



Police believe the three men suspected of being involved in the murder were attempting to make it look like the honeymooner (27) took her own life.



The door to the safe in the couple’s room was found open and officers think she disturbed the hotel workers as they tried to steal possessions.



Hotel attendant Avinash Treebhowoon (29), floor supervisor Sandip Mooneea (41) and room attendant Raj Theekoy (33), were today charged in a Mauritius courthouse in relation to her strangulation.



Police said Michaela’s husband John McAreavey found his wife's body in the bathtub with the tap still running when he went to look for her.



He immediately tried to resuscitate Michaela, lifting her lifeless body out of the tub and administering first aid.



Michaela had returned to the room from lunch to fetch some Weight- Watchers biscuits she had brought from home to enjoy with a cup of tea. It was then she came across the burglars.



Two suspects have been charged with murder, while a third man was being charged with conspiracy to murder.



One of the arrested men is the floor manager at the hotel, while the other two are room attendants.



Local reporter Gilles Martial, who was at this morning's press conference, told the Herald that the forensics team had discovered skin underneath Michaela's nails which is believed to be from one or more of her attackers.



She had put up a desperate struggle, police said. Her attempts to fight the killers off will now lead directly to their identification by DNA.



The samples are being examined by the police who will give their report on Friday.



Autopsy results have indicated that Michaela was strangled with bare hands.



Commissioner of Police Dan Rampersad said today a distraught Mr McAreavey found his wife “in the bathtub of the room, in water with the face out of the water and facing upwards”.



It is understood she was wearing her swimsuit.



Detectives have already taken samples of fingerprints as well as blood to carry out analysis.



Inspector of Police Ranjit Jokhoo confirmed there were provisional charges of murder and conspiracy being brought.



The first suspect is a 29-year-old room attendant from Plaine des Roches on the island.



The second man is a 41-year-old floor supervisor residing at Petit Raffray, while the third is a 33-year-old room attendant residing at Ramnarain.



In Mauritius, as soon as an accused party is arrested, they are brought before the next court sitting on a provisional charge.



“After that, they will be returned to a police cell until police complete their inquiry and after that the Director of Public Prosecutions will decide the final charge,” he explained.



He said one, two or more people were in Michaela and John's room when she returned to get biscuits for her tea.



However, Mr McAreavey has now confirmed that nothing was stolen from the room, Mr Jokhoo revealed.



BURGLARS



“They (the burglars) entered the room by using a magnetic card to open the door. This has been confirmed because it is recorded electronically,” the police inspector said.



Detectives from the Major Crimes Investigation Division noticed that a drawer was open, as was the cupboard door where the safe is located.



Michaela's body was discovered by her husband half submerged in the bathtub of their bedroom on Monday afternoon.



This may have been an attempt by her killers to make her death look like a suicide, according to the reports.



Police also suspect more than one attacker helped to kill the secondary school teacher after she surprised them in her room and that the culprits were known to her from the hotel.



Data taken from the door's electronic lock revealed that her attacker entered the room at 2.42pm, just two minutes before Michaela.



The intruder is believed to have used one of three magnetic skeleton key cards that can unlock all doors and are given to room service employees.



It is thought she was strangled from behind after she surprised the thieves. She had bruises on her head and body, leading police to believe she had fought for her life during her final minutes.



Mr McAreavey's brother and one of Michaela's brothers were due to land in Mauritius today to help support the grieving husband.



Police have established that before leaving for lunch, the couple had put a Do Not Disturb sign on their door and police believe the culprits tried to exploit this as they knew cleaners or other staff would not have entered the room.

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