Belfast Telegraph

Laundrette killer convicted in case overshadowed by failures of police

By Harriet Crawford and Christ Kilpatrick

A spurned lover has been found guilty for a second time of murdering his former girlfriend.

Despite two warnings prior to the killing, police failed to adequately protect mother-of-four Marion Millican.

Fred McClenaghan (52) was yesterday convicted and jailed for life for murdering 51-year-old Mrs Millican after she ended their relationship. It took the jury just 75 minutes to reach the unanimous guilty verdict.

The father-of-two, from Broad Street, Magherafelt, showed no emotion as the jury foreman read out the verdict.

In the public gallery just behind him, Mrs Millican's family and friends, including her daughter Suzanne and husband Kenneth, let out muted cheers and clapped.

McClenaghan was found guilty of shooting his former girlfriend in the chest with a shotgun in a daylight attack at the laundrette where she worked in Portstewart on March 11, 2011.

In the run-up to the shooting, McClenaghan told a number of mental health experts and counsellors he wanted to kill himself and Mrs Millican.

She had cut off contact with McClenaghan three months before her murder and was working on rebuilding her marriage with her husband Kenneth.

Despite fears over his violent nature and a report that McClenaghan owned a gun illegally, police failed to act properly.

An investigation was launched into the PSNI's handling of the threat posed to Mrs Millican.

And the Police Ombudsman's damning verdict led to several officers being disciplined for the force's investigative failings.

The ombudsman said that there was "sufficient warning" for police officers to take more action.

Police received a report in December 2010 that McClenaghan had threatened to kill Mrs Millican and himself.

The PSNI notified her of the threat.

A second threat was brought to the PSNI's attention the following January.

The person who provided the information to police said they believed McClenaghan had a gun - but could not confirm ever having seen it.

Weeks later McClenaghan walked into the Portstewart laundrette where Mrs Millican worked and gunned her down.

The antique gun used by McClenaghan was never licenced to anybody in Northern Ireland.

The ombudsman's office said it "took the view that police did not take appropriate action in relation to a report that a member of the public had a gun illegally and was a possible danger to himself and to others".

"There was sufficient warning to allow police to have taken more action," it added.

It continued: "Several police officers are to face disciplinary sanction arising from a Police Ombudsman investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of Marion Millican."

The PSNI refused to reveal what disciplinary action was taken against the three officers involved.

Health bosses defended their handling of McClenaghan.

Back in 2012 a spokeswoman for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust said an independent review found the care and treatment of McClenaghan was timely and appropriate.

She said while some aspects of the case could have been improved, "none of these matters would have had a bearing on the tragic outcome".

The spokeswoman said the trust reported the threats made by McClenaghan to the PSNI.

The jury yesterday rejected McClenaghan's earlier guilty plea to the lesser crime of manslaughter and defence claims of diminished responsibility during the killing.

McClenaghan had claimed that his ex-partner's death was an "horrific accident" and that he had gone to the laundrette with the intention of kill himself in front of Mrs Millican.

The jury agreed with prosecution's argument that the killing amounted to "murder, pure and simple".

The minimum time he will spend in prison will be determined at a later date.

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