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Death of Gaelic football star's wife investigated as homicide

By Peter Taggart, For CNN
Michaela Harte, wife of Gaelic football star John McAreavey, was killed on the couple's honeymoon in Mauritius.
Michaela Harte, wife of Gaelic football star John McAreavey, was killed on the couple's honeymoon in Mauritius.
  • NEW: "This is too horrible to contemplate. We are just all devastated," her father says
  • Police say robbery might have been a motive in Michaela Harte's strangulation
  • She was on her honeymoon with Gaelic football star John McAreavey in Mauritius
  • Police say McAreavey is not a suspect

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Police on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius said Tuesday they were treating the death of a Gaelic football star's wife during their honeymoon as murder.

Michaela Harte, a 27-year-old teacher, was found dead in her luxury hotel room on Monday by her husband of two weeks, John McAreavey.

A post-mortem revealed the former beauty queen had been strangled, according to police.

Mauritius Police Force Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun said Tuesday that officers had identified six potential suspects. He said police believe robbery might have been a motive and were questioning hotel staff.

Soopun said McAreavey was in the restaurant of the hotel when his wife was killed and is not a suspect.

"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," Soopun said.

"When he found her in the room, she had been killed. He tried to help her, but she was already dead."

Soopun said the killer used an electronic key card to enter the room.

"This is being viewed with much concern by the police and the government of Mauritius," Soopun said. "We are doing everything we can to find whoever was responsible. The inquiry is progressing, and we are confident it will reach a successful conclusion."

Monday night, John McAreavey -- the Catholic Bishop of Dromore and the football star's uncle and namesake -- said the family did not know the full facts of the death.

"The biggest struggle today was to cope with what happened," he said. "There will come a time when people will want to get answers to questions."

Harte was the daughter of one of the best-known figures in Irish sports, Tyrone Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte.

In a written statement, Harte said his family was "devastated," and he offered support to his son-in-law.

"What a day she had on her wedding day. She was just radiant, a beautiful girl, and I just love her to bits. So did her whole family," Harte said.

"We will miss her so much," he added. "This is the worst nightmare that anyone can imagine. If you think things can be bad, then you go beyond that because that is where we are.

"This is too horrible to contemplate. We are just all devastated. It is the worst of the worst and our hearts are broken," he said.

Harte asked the media to refrain from contacting his son-in-law, who's "isolated out there" in Mauritius, he said.

"Our hearts go out to him," Harte said. "The lad is devastated. He is our son-in-law. He is a wonderful young man. Please lay off."

On Monday evening, Harte also issued a joint statement with Bishop McAreavey.

"We wish to confirm that we have received confirmation this afternoon that Michaela was killed today in Mauritius where the couple were on honeymoon," the statement read. "We ask for prayers for Michaela, John and their families and loved ones.

"Both families are deeply shocked and devastated by this tragic news and they ask for privacy and space at this time of profound grief."

Michaela Harte taught Irish at St Patrick's Girls Academy in Dungannon, County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland. She won the Ulster Rose of Tralee contest and was a former Rose of Tralee contestant.