Sad farewell as Michaela is laid to rest

Thousands of people gathered outside St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy, yesterday to say a final farewell to beautiful Michaela McIlreavey, who was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius.

Among the mourners were the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Good, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and members of the Derry County Board.

Arm in arm Michaela's father Mickey Harte and her husband of just eleven days John McIlreavey clung to each other for support as they made their way to the church. They were accompanied by Michaela's broken-hearted mother Marian, her brothers Mark and Michael,and Michaela's new mother and father in law Brendan and Tish.

At one point heartbroken widower John tenderly kissed the coffin of his wife as the mourners slowly moved towards the church in bright winter sunshine.

The family had chosen to bury Michaela in the beautiful wedding gown she had worn to wed childhood sweetheart John just two weeks ago.

During yesterday's funeral service many people were forced to wait outside as the 400 strong church filled to capacity.

There were moving scenes as poignant symbols that represented Michaela's 27 years were brought to the altar including a family photograph, rosary beads symbolising her deep faith, a finne representing her love of the Irish language and culture, a pioneer pin, and a rose recalling how in 2004 Michaela represented Ulster in the Rose of Tralee finals, were brought to the altar.

Bishop John McAreavey, who married the couple on December 30, said that people would want to hold onto the memory of the "special day" of the couple's wedding. "At their wedding, everyone could see the glow of happiness that radiated from Michaela and John," he added.