NI man ‘killed his wife on boating holiday because he was unwilling to accept she might divorce him’, court is told

A man accused of murdering his wife during a boating holiday on Lough Erne killed her because he was unwilling to accept that she may divorce him, a court has heard.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 5:13 pm
Stephen McKinney has gone on trial accused of murdering his wife

The body of 35-year-old Lu Na McKinney was found in the water close to a jetty at Devenish Island in County Fermanagh in April 2017.

Her husband Stephen McKinney, 44, from Castletown Square in Fintona, claims she drowned in a tragic accident.

At this beginning of his murder trial yesterday, prosecuting QC Richard Weir claimed what happened was “no tragic boating accident”.

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The trial heard that his wife’s body was recovered from the water within 40 minutes of her husband raising the alarm.

Police reports indicated the weather that night was good, with very little wind, occasional cloud cover and a full moon.

The prosecutor further claimed in the wake of his wife’s tragic death McKinney 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 their cruiser.

Mr Weir claimed the evidence would show that it was Mr McKinney who “caused Lu Na to be in the water”.

Mr Weir said the couple had lived a number of years in China and had returned only a year earlier to set up home in Co Donegal with Mrs McKinney working in a number of local restraunts.

The lawyer said the Manor House cruiser was the second the family had hired from the Killadeas marina in Fermanagh that April and prior to sailing were given comprehensive instructions and safety demonstrations on its operation.

The first cruise was in a smaller vessel, but the second was for three nights, commencing on April 12, 2017, and before setting off McKinney was advised to moor at the east jetty by Devenish Island.

Mr Weir said there were two emergency 999 calls made by Mr McKinney shortly after 1am the following morning, claiming his wife had “just ended up in the water”.

Initially he was recorded telling the emergency operator his wife had fallen into the water after she’d gone to check on the mooring ropes having complained the boat was moving.

When asked how she fell into the water, Mr McKinney replied: “I don’t know she just ended up in the water”, and that he jumped into the lough after her.

“I was in the water looking for her, trying to, I was trying to keep her, I was trying to keep her up. I got hold of her, but she went down and I tried to pull her back up.

“I tried to pull her back up and she went down,” then added: “And she pulled me down”.

Mr Weir said Mr McKinney was told to remain on the cruiser, get something warm to wear, and to put on the boat lights and await the arrival of the police.

The lawyer said when he spotted the lights of the approaching police launch, Mr McKinney was heard saying: “Oh Lu Na, oh Lu Na. I see my wife”.

The court heard it had taken police approximately 40 minutes from their Enniskillen base to reach the McKinney cruiser and that Mrs McKinney’s body was pulled from the lough by a police officer using a boat hook and immediately attempts were made to revive her.

Counsel further claimed during the journey to the hospital and afterwards, Mr McKinney told police his wife had complained the mooring ropes were loose, and despite his assurances, she wanted to check them.

Then outside the hospital treatment room Mr McKinney said he’d “tried my best to save her ... she can’t swim”, that he heard “a splash and I heard ‘help’ and I jumped in.... I had hold of her trying to pull her up.

“I had a hold of her .. at the the boat ... she kept pulling me down ... I tried my best but I’m not a good swimmer”.

Later when told his wife was dead, Mr McKinney allegedly revealed they had argued over the mooring ropes, and when they went out onto the jetty to check them .... “I heard her shout. I went to help”.

Mr Weir claimed Mr McKinney later told his wife’s friends that she ‘had slipped and fell into the water’ .. that he heard a splash and went outside and that Luna was not wearing a life jacket, “as it would not feel pretty”.

Counsel said in a follow-up search of the cruiser police recovered the perscription drug Zopiclone, a sleeping type tablet which in this instance was allegedly obtained by Mr McKinney online.

The court heard the drug could lead to despressions, while also effecting balance and coordination and drowsiness and that the amount found in her system was more than the normal theropeutic dose.

In conclusion Mr Weir told the jury: “We say this is a controlling man, who tired of his wife but was not prepared to accept she might divorce him with all the consequences that would have.

“This is not a tragic boating accident, we say he caused Lu Na to be in the water.... that he killed his wife”.

The trial, expected to last up to 10 weeks and hear evidence from up 70 witnesses continues today.