Trial underway for Co. Tyrone man accused of murdering his wife on their fourteenth anniversary

A 43-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife in Dungannon Crown Court today [26/02/2020], with this marking the opening day of what is expected to be several weeks’ worth of hearings.

The Prosecutor for the case, Richard Weir QC, has accused Stephen McKinney of being a “controlling husband” who, when faced with the prospect of a divorce, killed his wife Lu Na McKinney on 13th April, 2017, “[putting] her off the end of a…cruiser” that they had rented to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary.

The incident took place near Devenish Island on Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, in the early hours of the morning. Mr McKinney raised the alarm by making two calls to the police, with officers arriving and retrieving Mrs McKinney’s body within 40 minutes.

Trial Judge Madam Justice McBride would also hear from the Prosecutor that Mrs McKinney, several months before her death, had “talked of divorce and of taking the children back to China”, she herself being a Chinese national. Mr Weir added that this likely would’ve angered the defendant because, despite being “tired of his wife”, he was “unwilling to accept the possibility of her divorcing him”.

The jury, composed of seven men and five women, further heard that Mrs McKinney would’ve been “incapacitated” due to a large dose of Zopiclone, a sleeping medication used to treat insomnia which the defendant had purchased for her off the internet. This, combined with the fact that Mrs McKinney was already not a swimmer, made her chances of survival low.

Mr Weir would further claim that the defendant’s version of events has shifted since the initial report, stating that he “gave conflicting accounts to police, authorities, family and friends as to how she came to be in the lough, after she had allegedly went to secure the mooring ropes on the cruiser”.

The Prosecutor would near the end of his opening statement, lay out that, although “the case against Mr McKinney is a circumstantial one”, the “strands of evidence were sufficient, when taken together, to support [it]”.

The Prosecution then called their first witness to the stands, Police Constable John Stone, who said that upon their launch reaching the moored cruiser rented by the defendant, he noticed a black object in the water that would later be confirmed as the body of Mrs McKinney.

The Constable was able, with the help from the RNLI, to remove Mrs McKinney from the water, onto the cruiser, with a boat hook. He “checked for vital signs, but found none, and then [he] began CPR”. Mrs McKinney was then brought to shore and rushed to hospital by ambulance, where she would later be pronounced dead.

On the state of the defendant, Constable Stone said that Mr McKinney was sometimes unresponsive, or pacing around the cabin of his rented cruiser asking, “Where’s Luna?”. The officer further added that when the defendant was told his wife had been brought to hospital and it was recommended that he go with her, Mr McKinney “refused several times, before agreeing”. The Constable added a final remark that the defendant was “very calm”.

The trial is set to continue tomorrow when the jury shall here from the Defense.

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