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Irish honeymoon bride in Mauritius was strangled: Police

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 10:21

Port-Louis: An Irish beauty queen and daughter of a high-profile sports personality was strangled in her hotel room on honeymoon in Mauritius, rocking its high-end tourism industry and sparking a manhunt.

Police forensic expert Harish Baichoo told reporters "asphyxia due to compression of the neck" was the cause of Michaela McAreavey`s death on Monday.

The death has rocked Ireland -- the 27-year-old was the daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte, one of Ireland`s best-known sporting figures.

Speaking outside the family home, Harte paid tribute to his daughter and said "our hearts are broken... God save anybody from having to go to this place."

"Michaela was a lovely girl, she was a wonderful daughter, a brilliant sister. We`ll always treasure her," he said, in comments broadcast on the BBC.

Police said they have questioned several suspects, all from the island.

Tourism Minister Nando Bodha expressed shock at what he said was an unprecedented crime on the Indian Ocean island.

"It`s the first time in the history of tourism in Mauritius that this sort of tragedy has happened," he said, saying the nation was "shocked by this tragic event”.

"The government will give full support to the police so that the guilty party is found," he said

The honeymoon bride was found dead in her room at the Legends hotel, a five-star resort on Mauritius` northern coast.

Her husband John McAreavey, a Gaelic football star with County Down in Northern Ireland, was questioned but not kept in custody.

Harte said his son-in-law was "devastated" and urged the press to let him grieve in peace.

"He`s isolated out there, he has had an awful time, our hearts go out to him," he said. "Leave him alone, let him grieve he`s in such a lonely place."

Police officials explained that the couple, who married on December 30, had spent time at the hotel pool on Monday before heading to the restaurant.

Michaela McAreavey then reportedly told her husband she needed to go back to their room to fetch some biscuits.

When she failed to return, her husband went to look for her but could not open the door because his wife had taken the electronic key with her.

The door was eventually opened with the assistance of hotel staff and bore no signs of forced entry.

The young woman was found on her back. The hotel doctor was called in to confirm the death.

Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTE, Superintendent Yussuf Soopun of the Major Crimes Unit in Mauritius said the police were interviewing suspects "which we believe will bring us a positive result”.

Soopun said the suspects were from the island.

"We believe that when the lady entered the room, maybe somebody was inside the room and was trying to steal something and she surprised the person and maybe that person killed her," he said.

Mauritius, a volcanic island surrounded by coral reefs and lagoons, is best known for top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination. It welcomes some 950,000 tourists per year.

Bodha, the Tourism Minister, said members of the Harte family were expected to arrive on Wednesday on the island. Bodha said he had spoken to the dead woman`s husband and "he is really very distressed".

John McAreavey is a nephew of Bishop John McAreavey of the Catholic diocese of Dromore in Northern Ireland.

Michaela McAreavey was a schoolteacher who taught Irish and was a former contestant in Ireland`s popular Rose of Tralee beauty pageant.

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland and many players and managers are celebrities.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 10:21
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