Belfast Crown Court Murder Trial Reaches its Conclusion

“You have left a trail of destruction in your wake. Two young children have been deprived of their mother’s love, care and support,” said Madam Justice McBride.

This quote came from the sentencing hearing of Stephen Mckinney, 8 Castletown Square, Fintona, Co Tyrone, on 25 November 2021.

Mckinney was found guilty for the murder of his wife, 35-year-old Lu Na Mckinney, and received a life sentence on 21 July 2021.

The incident occurred at 1:15 AM on the 13th of April 2017, in which Mr. Mckinney called 999 saying that his wife had fallen into the water at Devenish Island, Lough Erne.

The Police and RNLI declared the victim as deceased at 2:52 AM. A post-mortem revealed that the deceased died from drowning and that there was no signs of a struggle.

A blood sample was taken revealing that she had levels of Zopiclone, an insomnia drug, higher than therapeutic levels.

An expert on the affects of Zopiclone said that the deceased appeared to have been in “Zopiclone induced sedation” which could only be awoken from with external stimuli.

The court also received evidence showing that the defendant had coercive and controlling behavior towards the deceased.

The judge was satisfied with this evidence that the defendant treated his wife in a controlling and degrading manner.

The defendant plead not guilty during the initial trial back on 26 February 2020.

The 25th of November 2021 trial was held in the Belfast Crown Court under Madam Justice McBride.

This sentencing trial was to determine the minimum term length that the defendant would be required to serve before becoming eligible for parole consideration.

The parole commissioners would then determine whether or not the defendant could be released.

However, life sentences must be served in full if the prison recalls them for violating the license of their parole.

The defendant was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years which is higher than the starting amount 15 to 16 years.

At the conclusion of the sentencing, Madam Judge McBride gave her closing remarks.

“Stephen McKinney you have been found guilty of the most heinous crime. You have treated your wife throughout the marriage with disrespect. You abused, degraded her and manipulated and controlled her and finally you took away her life.”

“Due to the number and the gravity of the aggravating factors I consider that this case requires a substantially higher minimum term than one of 15/16 years and I consider that the appropriate minimum term is one of 20 years.”

The defendant did not receive any remission to his minimum term.