Belfast Telegraph

Marion Millican family ripped apart by brutal laundrette killing

By Chris Kilpatrick

Her life was put on hold for nearly four years having dedicated herself to seeing her mother's killer finally brought to justice.

Suzanne Davis travelled from her north coast home for every court hearing since Fred McClenaghan was charged with murdering mother-of-four Marion Millican.

She sat through initial court appearances and two lengthy murder trials - the guilty verdict from the first of which was overturned on appeal.

There would be further anguish when the second trial was aborted after some members of the jury left the court to get chips for lunch.

The blunder 10 days into the trial left the taxpayer with a £60,000 bill.

A separate investigation headed up by the Police Ombudsman found a number of officers had failed to protect Marion when the threat posed by McClenaghan was brought to their attention in the months prior to the shooting.

Yesterday Suzanne and her family's relief at the conclusion of the court proceedings was tinged with disappointment at the minimum time McClenaghan will spend behind bars.

Ahead of yesterday's sentencing, Mrs Davis told how her mother's murder had torn her family apart.

She was also critical of the justice system.

"Just to go through this again, to get the same verdict - I think there has to be some re-evaluation of how courts deal with cases like this," she told UTV.

It took the jury just 75 minutes to reach the unanimous guilty verdict last month.

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

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

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

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.

McClenaghan was furious she had cut off contact with him three months before her murder.

Marion was instead working on rebuilding her marriage with her husband, Ken.

Police received a report in December 2010 that McClenaghan had threatened to kill Mrs Millican and himself. The PSNI notified her of the threat. The following month police were told of another threat. 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.

Her friend and colleague Pamela Henry was the last person apart from the killer to see Mrs Millican alive.

They had been eating lunch together at the back of the laundrette when McClenaghan arrived with a gun and grabbed Marion by the arm, telling her: "You're coming with me. We have to talk." She refused and tried to calm him down, saying it was best they talked in the shop.

But McClenaghan fired a shot, blasting a hole in the kitchen floor between the two women.

Mrs Henry made a terrified dash for freedom, leaving her brave friend in the clutches of a "mad, violent" McClenaghan.

She said Marion had winked and nodded to her, and agreed with police that it appeared as if her friend was telling her to get out. After the killing McClenaghan ran to his car and sped off.

He had claimed the shooting was accidental yet he made no attempt to call an ambulance or get help for Mrs Millican.

After the alarm was raised, Marion's husband Ken ran to the scene and cradled her in his arms.

They had been "on the path of reconciliation and a resumption of their marriage" before her death, the trial heard.

McClenaghan had deliberately shot dead Mrs Millican out of "anger, jealousy and resentment" after she had ended their relationship, prosecution barrister Neil Connor said during the opening stages of the trial.

McClenaghan's attempt to strangle Mrs Millican following a night out "was the final straw" that ended a year-long abusive relationship that was "characterised by violence", the court was told. Such was the ferocity of the attack he had left finger-mark bruises around her neck.

That was the third incident of domestic abuse towards Mrs Millican, who had previously been punched unconscious by McClenaghan and on a separate incident sustained a broken tooth.

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 officers being disciplined for the force's failings.

Daughter slams murderer's sentence 

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