Northern Ireland news

Lu Na McKinney: Trial opens of man accused of murdering his wife during Lough Erne cruise

Stephen McKinney at Dungannon Crown Court for the opening of his trial where he stands accused of killing his wife

A "controlling man, tired of his wife, not prepared to accept her divorcing him", killed the 35-year-old during a Lough Erne cruise to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary, a court has been told.

Opening his case at the Dungannon Crown Court trial of Stephen McKinney (43), prosecuting QC Richard Weir accused the father-of two of murdering his wife Lu Na nearly three years ago by causing her to enter the water.

He told the jury of seven men and five women that when they had heard all of the evidence they would find "this was no tragic accident and you will be sure Stephen McKinney killed his wife".

Her body was recovered from Fermanagh's Lower Lough Erne near Devenish Island within 40 minutes of her husband raising the alarm in the early hours of April 13 2017.

The weather that night was described as good, with very little wind, and with a full moon providing good visibility.

Mr Weir said while Mr McKinney denied having anything to do with the death of his wife, when police arrived on the scene, during the four minutes it took them to dock, he did "nothing to pull her out of the water".

It was also claimed he gave conflicting accounts to police, authorities, family and friends as to how she came to be in the water, after she had allegedly gone to secure mooring ropes on the 29ft cruiser.

Mr McKinney, originally from Strabane but who lived with his wife and children in Flaxfield, Convoy, Co Donegal, now has an address in Castlerown Square, Fintona, Co Tyrone.

Mr Weir revealed that months before her death Mrs McKinney had talked of divorcing her husband and of taking their children back to China, something he would not have wanted.

He said the case was a circumstantial one but one where the strands of evidence were sufficient when taken together.

The body of Lu Na McKinney (35) was recovered from water near Devenish Island, Co Fermanagh in April 2017

The lawyer said the Manor House cruiser was the second the family had hired from the Killadeas marina in Fermanagh that April, for which they were given comprehensive instructions and safety demonstrations.

Although advised to go to the east jetty at Devenish Island, he went to the west.

The court heard details of two 999 calls made by Mr McKinney shortly after 1am the following morning.

In the first, which was cut short, he said they had both been adjusting the mooring ropes when his wife slipped, and he jumped into the water to try and help her.

When asked how she fell in, he said: "I just don't know, she just ended up in the water."

Outside the hospital treatment room he had talked of trying his "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.

"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 told his wife's friends that she 'had slipped and fell into the water' and that he heard a splash and gone outside, while another allegedly heard him say he saw Lu Na trip and fall into the water.

The jury also heard of the effect Zopiclone, used to treat insomnia, would have had on Mrs McKinney.

Her husband said he had obtained it for her online and she'd taken more some that evening.

Mr Weir told the jury "Lu Na McKinney was incapacitated having consumed the Zopiclone".

"We say that Stephen McKinney caused her to enter the water at Devenish Island," he said.

"We say he is a controlling man, tired of his wife, not prepared to accept her divorcing him and all the consequences that would entail for him and their children."

The trial, expected to hear evidence from up to 100 witnesses over eight weeks, continues today.

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