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Mauritius a “land of peace”, says Tourism Minister

While murder rate on island where Michaela Harte died is low, “petty crime is common”.

The Legends hotel complex, Grand Graube, Mauritius where Michaela Harte was murdered.
The Legends hotel complex, Grand Graube, Mauritius where Michaela Harte was murdered.

THE MINISTER FOR Tourism in Mauritius where Michaela Harte was murdered in a hotel room has said that such a crime has never happened before on the island.

Michaela’s body was found by her new husband John McMcAreavey yesterday afternoon in their room at the Legends hotel, in the fishing town of Grand Graube. A post-mortem this morning found that she had been strangled.

Minister for Tourism and Leisure, Nandcoomar Bodha, told RTE Radio’s News at One that it is the first time that “something like this has happened here”. He said that the island of Mauritius was very safe for tourists. He said:

The whole island and the people of Mauritius are deeply saddened and shocked that such a tragedy could ever happen in Mauritius. This is a land of peace… We extend our heartfelt condolences to the husband John and the family and to all those mournign the death of Michaela Harte.

The minister also said that he had spoken to Michaela’s husband John. He said the young Down footballer was very distressed, and when the minister told him he was about to speak on Irish radio he asked him to convey one message: “I love my wife”.

Police in Mauritius are currently questioning six people in relation to Michaela’s murder and the minister says they are conducting a “full-fledged inquiry and investigation”. Some of these people are suspects, he confirmed. The minister added:

The investigation has been going on since yesterday. There is a rule of law on this island.

Mauritius has a relatively low murder rate. While the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs says it does not provide detailed travel advice about the country because it does not have an embassy on the island, the UK’s Foreign Office says that “petty crime is common”. It also advises that while most crime in Mauritius is non-violent, “the use of weapons is evident in some burglaries”.

The murder rate in Mauritius is very low – in the most recent batch of global statistics gathered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2008, the rate stood at around two murders per 100,000 of population.

However, local news outlet Le Defi reported there was an overall crime rate increase in 2009. Also, Mauritius Now quotes the Commissioner of Police Dhun Iswar Rampersad as saying that one of the major policing objectives for 2011 was an “achievable increase in target” in murder detection by 3 per cent.

Hotel Legends, where Michaela died, described itself as a “new four-star luxe hotel” in the north-eastern corner of the island. It faces onto an idyllic bay, beyond which stretches the Indian Ocean.

The travel website tripadvisor.com, which compiles customer reviews of hotels and travel destinations, says 88 per cent of travellers would recommend a stay at the hotel. None of the 500-plus tourists who reviewed their hotel on the site mention being the victims of petty crime.

The hotel is popular with honeymooners. One couple from England, who had their wedding and honeymoon at the hotel, gave it a five-star review, citing the helpful staff, the view of the lagoon and the dining experience as excellent. Another couple, from London, recommended the hotel’s facilities, including tennis and golf lessons and massage and facial treatments at the on-site spa. A couple on honeymoon from Sheffield called it a “honeymoon paradise”, saying that “the staff are amazing, nothing is too much trouble”. A couple from Donegal who honeymooned there last September had a “wonderful” time.

A minority of other couples were less impressed. A couple from Dublin wrote that their honeymoon experience at Legends last September was “not as good as expected”, that the restaurants were difficult to book and that service was slow.

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A couple from London gave the hotel two stars out of five, describing the room they were offered as akin to “a travelodge room”. They also claimed they had issues with food and service in the main restaurant and claimed “the staff here are only interested in the payers”.

One couple from Aberdeenshire in Scotland who were staying in the area in another hotel, complained that Legends hotel had “an obsessive attitude to security” when they went to visit. They wrote that they explained at the security-gated entrance to Legends that they wanted to look around the hotel with a view to booking it for their next trip to Mauritius.

The couple said that they were “treated with some suspicion” and that the hotel had denied them entry. They wrote:

It is understandable that the hotel wants to offer its guests a safe environment, but the level of security and the fences that completely surround Legends seem to be totally unwarranted.

The couple’s comments, made in 2009, suggest that a would-be intruder would have some difficulty gaining access to the hotel compound.

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