Some travel operators have stopped selling holidays to the Mauritius Legends Complex where Michaela McAreavey was killed. Channel 4 News speaks to a woman who also spent her honeymoon there.
Three hotel staff have appeared in court, two charged with murder and one with conspiracy to murder following the death of Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius. She was the daughter of gaelic football manager Micky Harte, and was strangled in her hotel room.
Six months ago, Rachel Williams, from Birmingham, spent her honeymoon at the same location – Legends Complex.
The brutal killing has sent shockwaves around the world – but for Mrs Williams, it is much closer to home.
“The resort was absolutely beautiful – like a miniature paradise, beautiful beaches and amazing views,” she told Channel 4 News.
“The staff at the resort were extremely polite, friendly and helpful on our visit, which is why I am so shocked that this has happened. It is very unsettling to think that the men responsible for this awful crime were probably working there when we stayed at Legends.”
The staff at the resort were extremely polite, friendly and helpful on our visit, which is why I am so shocked that this has happened. Rachel Williams
Mrs Williams said the incident would put her off a return visit, despite her own positive experiences.
“We never had any reason to feel unsafe in Mauritius, but this kind of incident would definitely put me off going back. If this had happened before we went on honeymoon, I would have definitely looked into changing our resort and perhaps the destination altogether,” she said.
“My very deepest sympathies go out to Michaela’s husband and family.”
The tourism authorities in Mauritius have moved swiftly to stress that the murder of Mrs McAreavey, who married gaelic footballer John McAreavey on 30 December, is a one-off incident.
In a statement, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) said it was “extremely saddened” by her death.
The Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Honorable Nandcoomar Bodha, said: “Our thoughts are with Michaela’s family and friends during this terrible tragedy. It is the first time that a murder has ever taken place in a hotel in Mauritius and the island’s extremely low crime rate means this has come as a terrible shock to the whole nation. MTPA is meeting with Michaela’s parents…to extend its support and the entire island is in mourning.”
It is the first time that a murder has ever taken place in a hotel in Mauritius. Minister of Tourism, Honorable Nandcoomar Bodha
The Chief Executive Officer of the hotel group, Paul Jones, added: “Every possible support will be given to the bereaved families and we thank the Government for the assistance and cooperation that it has extended to us and to the families as well.”
According to the United Nations latest statistics on homicide, out of 153 nations, Mauritius has a mid-ranking 61st rate of murder, with 3.8 murders per 100,000 people in 2008. Honduras has the highest, at 60.9 per 100,000, and other popular honeymoon and holiday destinations such as St Lucia and the Seychelles are 20th and 37th, with 16 and 8.4 respectively.
There are concerns that other honeymooners and holidaymakers may now change their plans to avoid Mauritius as a destination, although the Foreign Office has not altered its travel advice to the country.
A spokesman told Channel 4 News: “One off incidents do not necessarily represent a change to the threat level in a country. We keep our travel advice updated regularly.”
However some travel operators have stopped selling holidays to the Legends Complex until the situation is cleared up.
Mauritius Connection, a leading online operator for holidays to Mauritius, owned by travel company ITC Classics, has done so, although they have not had any cancellations of pre-booked holidays yet.
Chief Executive Jennifer Atkinson told Channel 4 News: “We are not selling Legends Complex at the moment, until we understand the situation.”
However, she added: “This happened in Antigua, St Lucia, and it’s usually very bad at first, people think ‘oh, maybe we won’t go there’ but it’s about how the authorities deal with it, and whether they move quickly to resolve the situation, and whether it’s proven to be a one-off incident.”
As this seems to be happening in Mauritius, she said the resort would bounce back.
“People are right to be concerned, in a sense when you are on holiday you feel more vulnerable, but in our experiences Mauritius is a safe and wonderful destination for honeymoons. It’s been a big destination for us for years and I can count on one hand – well, one finger really – the times something like this has happened.
“Things like this can happen wherever you are, unfortunately. It creates anxiety but there is usually no long term affect on the destination. It’s just a real tragedy,” she said.