Belfast Telegraph

McClenaghan trial legal teams in summing up

By Harriet Crawford

A man accused of murdering his former girlfriend shot her out of anger, jealousy and resentment, a jury has been told.

Prosecution barrister Neil Connor said Fred McClenaghan had deliberately shot dead mother-of-four Marion Millican after she had ended their relationship the previous Christmas.

McClenaghan denies murdering his former lover in the north coast launderette where she worked in March 2011.

The 52-year-old from Broad Street in Magherafelt, has already pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of the 51-year-old's manslaughter.

The incident happened in Portstewart, Co Londonderry.

The accused claims he accidentally shot her during a struggle for a shotgun that he had intended to use on himself in front of her.

Mr Connor yesterday told the jury that Ms Millican had ended their year-long relationship after a violent incident in which McClenaghan attempted to strangle her, leaving finger-mark bruises around her neck. He described theirs as "an abusive relationship" that established "a pattern" of violence by McClenaghan on Ms Millican.

Mr Connor said that McClenaghan had made a phone call to Lifeline suicide prevention service in which he told a counsellor about a plan he had to kill his girlfriend and then kill himself.

It was claimed that he later told a counsellor that he felt "abandoned" by his ex-partner.

The prosecution argued that McClenaghan went to the launderette with the intention of causing harm to Ms Millican. "He did go there to punish her as he felt she had abandoned him," the jury was told.

"He was angry, jealous and he resented her."

McClenaghan turned up at the launderette carrying the weapon while Ms Millican was having lunch with her colleague and friend, Pamela Henry.

The court was told McClenaghan grabbed Ms Millican by the arm, telling her: "You're coming with me. We have to talk."

When she refused to go with him McClenaghan was said to have fired a shot at the women's feet. The prosecution said there were a number of unanswered questions - including how the fatal shot was fired - as a result of McClenaghan's choice not to give evidence to the trial.

It is the defence case that the 100-year-old 12-bore double-barrelled shotgun had gone off accidentally during a struggle when Ms Millican had grabbed it.

Defence QC John McCrudden argued that the evidence given by two witnesses from Forensic Science Northern Ireland on the testing of the weapon to prove whether the gun could have been accidentally discharged was "contradictory and unreliable". He also said that McClenaghan was seeking help for his deteriorating mental health, including flashbacks to his childhood of sexual abuse and nightmares of harming Ms Millican.

In his closing argument, Mr McCrudden said that McClenaghan was "actively suicidal" in the months before the killing.

Mr McCrudden is expected to finish his closing submissions to the jury today, before trial judge Mr Justice Treacy addresses the jury before sending them to consider their verdict.

The prosecution arguments

Prosecution barrister Neil Connor told the jury that the defendant had deliberately shot dead the mother-of-four out of "anger, jealousy and resentment" after she had ended their relationship the previous Christmas.

McClenaghan's attempt to strangle Mrs Millican following a night out "was the final straw" that ended a year-long relationship "characterised by violence", the court was told.

The jury was told it was the third incident of domestic abuse towards Mrs Millican who, it was alleged, had been punched unconscious by McClenaghan.

On the day of the killing, Mr Connor said that the accused had gone to the launderette with the intention of causing Mrs Millican harm.

He advised the jury to reject McClenaghan's plea for manslaughter on the basis of the accused's past violence and threats to kills Mrs Millican. "We say it was a deliberate and intentional act," he said.

"He did go there to punish her as he felt she had abandoned him. He was angry, jealous and he resented her.

"He went to the launderette, equipped himself with a shotgun with the purpose of killing Marion Millican."

Mr Connor told the jury a psychiatrist called by the prosecution had dismissed the defence's assertion that McClenaghan was suffering from a "severe depressive order" at the time of the killing, saying this was "moderate". He said the defence case that the double-barrelled shotgun had gone off accidentally during a struggle was "a red herring".

"It was only in April this year that the defendant told someone that the gun was faulty. It took him over three years to say it was faulty," he said.

"We now know that the gun is faulty but that's after the defence expert broke the gun. It was working fine when it was examined by the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory after the murder."

Mr Connor said there were many unanswered questions over McClenaghan's decision not to give evidence in court. "The only person who can give those answers is sitting there (in the dock). He will not walk the short distance from there to there (the witness box)."

"The silence is deafening." Mr Connor said: "We say he deliberately shot her. He should take full responsibility for what he did.

"He should be saddled with the full responsibility for his actions and in the circumstances we say he should be found guilty of murder."

The defence arguments

In his closing submission to the jury, defence QC John McCrudden attacked the "unreliable" evidence of two expert prosecution witnesses from the Forensic Service of Northern Ireland.

They gave evidence to the trial on how they had examined the shotgun after it was seized by police just hours after Fred McClenaghan had killed Marion Millican.

He said their evidence contained "conflicts, contradictions and inconsistencies".

Likening the witnesses to two car salesman, he asked the jury: "Would you buy a used car or a used gun from these two witnesses?

"You will never have seen two more unreliable people."

He added that the experts had followed neither their own procedures nor internationally recognised protocols on the testing of the "virtually antique weapon" to prove whether the gun could have been accidentally discharged.

Their evidence was branded as a "disgrace to the system it's supposed to contribute to".

Mr McCrudden said to the jury: "There is an unextinguished possibility that the gun was trigger light.

"The accused is entitled to the benefit of that doubt." He asked the jury to remove emotion from their decision-making and avoid a "rush to justice" that might undermine the rule of law.

"Emotion is something that has to be set aside."

He described the killing of Mrs Millican as "an unspeakable tragedy".

"She was beyond all doubt a completely innocent, undeserving, hard-working person."

He said that at the time of the killing McClenaghan was suffering from a "severe depressive disorder".

The accused had been seen by 13 professional people about his "anxieties, problems, difficulties and suicidal ideation".

McClenaghan's suffering of sexual abuse as a six-year-old boy by a policeman was both tragic and relevant, Mr McCrudden argued.

Mr McCrudden said: "At the time he had thoughts of harming her, he was seeking help. He was coming to them for help. He was not the classic murderer.

"He was in a deep, dark place that was scaring him as he was a danger to himself and to other people."

He told the jury if they found McClenaghan was suffering from diminished responsibility, "you should not convict him of murder, but convict him of manslaughter".

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