Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John
McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey on the wedding day of
Michaela Harte and John McAreavey
lost, a honeymoon-descended-into-hell, a radiant bride senselessly
murdered on a palm-fringed island idyll. It's the raw material of a dark
Hollywood thriller that taps into our deepest, most irrational fears '
or at least it was, until yesterday.
that Michaela McAreavey, 27, daughter of Gaelic football legend Mickey
Harte, was murdered at her luxury hotel in Mauritius was utterly
shocking, the grim details all the more heart-rending when juxtaposed
with her joyful wedding photograph, taken on December 30.
Northern Irish beauty queen, she taught Irish at St Patrick's girls
academy in my own home town of Dungannon, in County Tyrone, where she
was both enormously liked and hugely respected. I know the school well,
and can imagine the sense of numb horror that must now grip pupils and
teachers alike, its repercussions rippling across the wider community
like a breeze on a burn.
blameless young woman's life should be snuffed out in our closest
approximation to Eden is almost impossible to grasp. I have holidayed on
Mauritius and can confirm that this gem, set in the lapis waters of the
Indian Ocean is, indeed, the stuff of fantasies. If we're not safe
there, where are we safe'
lapping turquoise water, icing sugar sand, palm trees set just so, the
horizon is a gentle meniscus of endless possibility.
is this sense of possibility, of a happy-ever-after to be seized by a
young couple embarking on life's most exciting, most challenging
adventure ' marriage ' that has been obliterated. Their 'in sickness and
in health' wedding vows still echoing, death has parted them far, far
sooner than anyone could have anticipated.
visited Mauritius, in 2006, I was with my elder daughter, then aged
three. As she was too tired from the day's giddy excitements to stay up
past supper, I would tuck her into bed before heading off, without a
second's thought, to dine with friends.
later, Madeleine McCann was taken from an Algarve holiday apartment in
Praia da Luz. Her appalling abduction robbed a family of their daughter
and every parent of their prelapsarian innocence ' their naivety ' that
far-flung locations were automatically safer, strangers kinder, risks
lower than at home.
shudder now to think of having left my child ' albeit inside a locked
hotel room ' alone in what is, for all the fluffy white bath robes, a
developing nation, where petty crime has an altogether more desperate,
vicious edge. My hotel was luxurious to a fault, peopled with a vast
number of smiling staff and well-heeled guests; does that make it less
likely or more likely to be targeted by criminals'
McAreavey was killed because she disturbed an intruder (or intruders) in
her room. She was found by her husband, Gaelic footballer John
McAreavey, who had been waiting for her in the restaurant. He
encountered a scene that will haunt him forever.
police on the island report that Harte ' so serene, so dazzling in her
wedding gown ' had put up a fierce fight for her precious life. Three
suspects have been charged with her murder; a few minutes later and they
would merely have been guilty of theft.
written about the banality of evil, but what of the trivial decisions we
take that alter the course of our lives irrevocably' Harte had gone to
the room to fetch some biscuits to have with a cup of tea, an impulse
that brought her into unimaginable danger. How could she have known' How
could anyone be prepared for such a random event'
morbid to suggest that no amount of planning or painstaking effort or
financial outlay can ever fully protect us ' but it is true,
British honeymooners Ben and Catherine Mullany were murdered on the
Caribbean island of Antigua. Their funeral was held in the same church
where they had married a month earlier. They, too, were victims of a
robbery gone terribly wrong.
retired Kent couple Paul and Rachel Chandler set off round the world on
their yacht, how their friends must have envied them. But in 2009, while
sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania, they were captured by Somali
pirates, and spent 338 harrowing days in captivity, which was ended only
with the payment of a ransom demand.
claim their route had taken them into Somali waters notorious for pirate
attacks, and hinted, harshly, they were the architects of their own
misfortune. Had the Chandlers guessed at the ramifications of plotting
that course, they would have acted differently; and who among us hasn't
made an unforeseen error of judgement that has had serious, if not
downright tragic consequences'
married abroad, on a cliff in St Lucia, overlooked by the island's
pitons, twin volcanic plugs that rear up into the vaulted blue skies. I
am pleased to report absolutely nothing of note happened. But friends
who had travelled to New Orleans around the same time, ended up getting
pistol-whipped and robbed in their hotel room.
a conclusion to be drawn' Probably not, other than a reminder of the
fragility of life and a bittersweet, but necessary, reminder that the
carefree moments we let our guard down are sometimes the moments when we
need it most.