“A Controlling Husband”, Stephen McKinney Denies Murdering Wife of 14 Years

26st February 2021

Dungannon Crown Court

Described as “a controlling husband”, Stephen McKinney denies murdering wife of 14 years.

The defendant,  Stephen McKinney, age 43, from Fintona, Co Tyrone pleaded not guilty to murdering Lu Na McKinney, near Devenish Island on 13th April 2017.

“When you hear all of the evidence you would find that this was no tragic accident and you will be sure Stephen McKinney killed his wife”, Prosecuting counsel Richard Weir QC said.

Weir alleges that Mr McKinney had “put her off the end of a Lough Erne cruiser. It had been hired to celebrate their upcoming 14th wedding anniversary”.

Weir puts forward the case of a man who “tired of his wife but was unwilling to accept the possibility of her divorcing him”. 

Noting that Mrs McKinney had expressed months before, wanting to move back to China with the children.

On the morning of the alleged murder, details revealed that Mrs McKinney had taken the sleeping drug Zopiclone, prior to her death. This being illegally supplied by Mr McKinney.

Mrs McKinney’s body was recovered from the water of Femanagh’s Lower Lough Erne, 40 minutes after Mr McKinney raised the alarm. Phoning emergency services twice,  “claiming his wife had just ended up in the water” – Weir said.

Weir alleged police at the scene said Mr McKinney, “did nothing to recover his wife, a non-swimmer, from the lough”.

Weir continued “Mr McKinney gave conflicting accounts to police, authorities, family and friends as to how she came to be in the lough”.

Prosecuting witness Police constable John Stone said when he arrived he could see Mr McKinney on the cruiser. Stone recounted how he shouted at him twice, asking “where has she gone in?…I got no reply from him”.

In the water below Stone saw a black object as he approached the scene – “From experience I believed I could tell it was a person”. At that point Mr McKinney allegedly said to Stone “it’s her” in an uninterested way.

According to Stone, it was suggested to Mr McKinney that he go with Mrs McKinney to the hospital, “but he refused several times, before agreeing” – Stone argued.

Stone further added, “Mr McKinney was pacing about to and fro in the cabin and kept asking – ‘where’s Lu Na'”. A contradicting statement to make, since Stone claims previously Mr McKinney had expressed knowing Mrs McKinney’s whereabouts in the water.

Throughout the investigation on the morning of the incident, Stone characterised Mr McKinney as “very calm”.

Defence Counsel Martin O’Rourke QC, expressed doubt that Mr McKinney could have known the “black object” in the water was his wife’s body. Asking if Stone could be sure it was a clear indication of a body from a distance.

As Weir said in his opening statement to the court “The case against Mr McKinney was a circumstantial one but one where the strands of evidence were sufficient, when taken together, to support their case”.

Ms Justice McBride and the jury are yet to make a ruling, as the trial continues.