Man sentenced to at least 20 years in jail for murdering wife on Lough Erne

A man found guilty of murdering his wife during a holiday in Fermanagh will serve at least 20 years in prison.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 2:16 am
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 2:37 am
Convicted murderer Stephen McKinney will serve at least 20 years in jail

Stephen McKinney, 45, was convicted earlier this year of murdering his wife Lu Na McKinney in April 2017.

Her body was recovered from Lough Erne beside a jetty.

The couple had moored on Devenish Island during a boating holiday with their children.

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Lu Na McKinney, 35, who was murdered by her husband Stephen McKinney, 44

They had been living in Donegal prior to the murder.

At Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Justice Denise McBride jailed McKinney, originally from Strabane in Co Tyrone but most recently of Castletown Square, Fintona, for life and said he should serve a minimum term of 20 years before being considered for release.

The judge called the murder “the most heinous” crime and said it had been premeditated and carefully planned.

She told McKinney: “You abused, degraded her and manipulated and controlled her and finally you took away her life.

The boat from which Lu Na was murdered, seen in 2017 moored at the rear of Devenish Island along with a police boat

“It was such a needless and cruel action. You were someone that she should have been able to trust but you betrayed that position and you ended her life prematurely.”

The judge focused in particular on the presence of the children that night, who she said were “not present by accident but design as the defendant sought cynically to use his children’s presence to throw suspicion away from him for the murder he intended to commit”.

She added: “You denied her the opportunity of seeing her children grow up.

“You have left a trail of destruction in your wake.

Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan speaks to media outside Belfast Crown Court after sentencing of Stephen McKinney. “Today my thoughts are very much with Lu Na’s children and her family," he said

“Two young children have been deprived of their mother’s love, care and support.

“As a result of your action you have left the children without parents to care for them and their lives have been irreparably adversely affected.”

McKinney shouted as he was led away and continued to plead his innocence.

He has always maintained that his wife had fallen into the water and he had tried to save her.

During the trial the state pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Lu Na found head and neck bruising which might have indicated that she had been strangled but could have been sustained during resuscitation.

He said that the most likely cause of death was drowning.

The judge said yesterday that the murder was the culmination of coercive, controlling behaviour throughout their marriage.

In a statement issued on behalf of Lu Na’s family, they thanked the judge, the jury and the PSNI for their work on the case.

They said: “As a family, we have endured four very difficult years, made more difficult living so far away from the investigation and trial.

“We are thankful that Lu Na had so many people fighting for her.

“The outcome of this court process has brought us some justice.

“It does not change the fact that Lu Na was so cruelly taken from us and we will never be able to see her, talk to her or for Lu Na to be part of our family celebrations.”

During the short hearing, Justice McBride also paid tribute to a female detective who had worked on the case but had died before the trial commenced after contracting Covid-19.

Detective Superintendent Eamon Corrigan, from the PSNI’s major investigations team, said: “Today my thoughts are very much with Lu Na’s children and her family whose suffering and loss will live with them for the rest of their lives.”

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