Murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey was strangled over a purse containing a small amount of cash, it has been claimed.
As the body of the 27-year-old newly-wed began its journey home to Northern Ireland, detectives on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius said the burglars-turned-killers she interrupted in her room at the luxury Legends Hotel were rummaging for a purse.
The price over which the teacher lost her life emerged after police said that one of the three hotel workers charged in connection with the murder had confessed.
It is understood that room attendant Avinash Treebhoowoon, 29, admitted the crime after one of his co-accused and fellow room attendant Raj Theekoy, 33, made a statement implicating him and the third accused, floor supervisor Sandip Moneea, 41. Treebhoowoon and Moneea, who are alleged to have carried out the killing, face murder charges.
Police sources believe they returned to rob the room after spotting the purse in the couple’s room while cleaning the day before.
Theekoy, who is charged with conspiracy, is alleged to have passed along the corridor outside the room in the hotel while the struggle was taking place but, despite hearing screams, did nothing to stop it.
A spokesman for the Maritius Police Force said: “Avinash Treebhoowoon has confessed. Further investigations will continue.”
Mrs McAreavey, who married husband John just 10 days before her death, was the daughter of one of Ireland’s most celebrated sports figures, Tyrone gaelic football team manager Mickey Harte.
A flight carrying the body of the Irish language teacher was due to leave the island on Thursday en route to London. Her remains are expected to be back in the Harte family home near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone by Friday lunchtime.
It is expected her funeral will take place on Monday at St Malachy’s chapel near the home – the same church where she was married only weeks ago.