Police have confirmed that Michaela Harte, the daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, was strangled to death on her honeymoon in Mauritius.
The Mauritian police have a list of between six and ten suspects and they are confident an arrest will be made today.
Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun said the postmortem on the newlywed found evidence of strangulations and neck compression.
A senior Mauritian police officer told BBC Radio Ulster today: “The victim fought for her life. There was a struggle in the room.”
Michaela’s husband, Down footballer John McAreavey, was in the restaurant of their hotel when the murder took place, according to Superintendent Soopun. The police believe that Michaela was the victim of a burglary attempt gone wrong.
The investigation team has established that a swipe card was used to gain access to the couple's hotel room, on the afternoon of her death.
A reporter from Mauritius told Newstalk radio in Ireland that the resorts computerized key card system recorded that Michaela’s card was used to enter her Room 1025, at 3.44pm yesterday. However the system also recorded that another swipe card had been used to access the room, just two minutes earlier, at 3.42pm.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Superintendent Soopun said: “She had gone back to the room to get some biscuits to put in her tea and, when she failed to return, her husband went to look for her…When he found her in the room, she had been killed. He tried to help her but she was already dead.
“A postmortem has showed she was strangled, she died from neck compression.”
The police confirmed that the killer had an electronic key-card to enter the room. He continued “There was no forced entry into the room…Whoever killed her definitely used an electronic card…This is being viewed with much concern by the police and government of Mauritius. We are doing everything we can to find whoever was responsible.”
Michaela was found dead in her hotel room at the Legends Hotel, Grand Gaube at 3pm (11am Irish time) on Monday. The alarm was raised by her husband, who reportedly found her lying on her back, still wearing her swimsuit.
A local news source in the Island reports that valuables had been left untouched in the couple’s hotel room.
Superintendent Soopun told TheJournal.ie that nothing had been stolen from the room: “Everything is still there – money, jewels, laptop. Nothing is missing. The murderer may have been surprised before he could take anything – we just don’t know yet.”
A spokesperson from the hotel said that staff immediately called the police, they then attempted to revive Michaela and later consoled her husband.
The newlyweds have checked into the hotel on January 8 and were not due to leave until January 16.
The spokesperson 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.”
Michaela’s brother Mark and a member of John’s family are expect to fly to the Indian Ocean Island today.
A flood of tributes to Michaela and family have already been made public in Ireland. A Facebook page “R.I.P. Michaela Harte” has been set up. The page features messages, photos and a like to video on RTE Sport which shows the former Rose of Tralee contestant speaking to Pat Kenny about Tyrone football and the county’s third All-Ireland win.
Michaela is survived by her husband, John, her parents Mickey and Marian and her brothers Mark, Michael and Matthew.