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Tyrone man sentenced to twenty years in prison for the murder of his wife

Emma Montgomery

A Co. Tyrone man has been given a life sentence for the murder of his wife.

He was sentenced today by the jury for the April 2017 murder. He will serve a minimum of 20 years before being eligible for parole.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Stephen McKinney (44) had put his wife, Lu Na McKinney (35), in the waters of Lough Erne while she was unconscious after she had ingested the sleeping drug Zopiclone.

Lu Na’s body was discovered in the lough near Devenish Island in the early hours of the 13th of April 2017. McKinney, of Castletown Square, Fintona, had pled not guilty and claimed her death was a tragic accident.

The jury accepted prosecution QC Peter Weir’s claim that McKinney had staged the murder of his wife.

The couple had been celebrating their 14th anniversary in a rented boat. After Lu Na entered the water, McKinney made a 40 minute call to 999 for help.

Their children were on-board the boat at the time of the murder. The court was satisfied that the children’s presence was to throw suspicion from McKinney.

McKinney had also splashed bottled water on himself to make it look like he had tried to rescue his wife from the water. The court heard that he remained calm and had initially refused to go in the ambulance with her to hospital. McKinney had made sure there were not enough life jackets on board the boat.

By their verdict, the jury accepted that McKinney had pre-meditated his wife’s murder because she had been planning to divorce him. Lu Na, originally from China, had suffered through years of controlling behaviour from McKinney.

Madame Justice McBride said McKinney had “abused, degraded her and manipulated and controlled her and finally you took away her life” and that he had “left a trail of destruction” in his wake.

She called his crime ‘heinous’ and said “the only sentence I can impose is one of life imprisonment.”

This is the second time that McKinney has been on trial as his original trial had to be adjourned due to COVID.