Belfast Telegraph

Murderer spun web of lies, appeal court told

A man attempting to overturn his conviction for the bathtub murder of his partner told police a complex series of lies immediately after her death, the Court of Appeal has heard.

William Mawhinney had also allegedly inflicted previous injuries on Lorraine Mills before she drowned 17 years ago, according to the prosecution.

Mawhinney (52) is serving at least 12 years of a life sentence for murdering Ms Mills at their Staffa Drive home in Ballymena, Co Antrim, in May 1995.

A post-mortem found the 35-year-old died from drowning, had a fractured skull and was seven times over the drink-drive limit.

Mawhinney was originally arrested and interviewed at the time of her death but the case against him was dropped.

The Ballymena man, later with an address in Cambridgeshire, was re-arrested in July 2009.

He was jailed after a jury at Belfast Crown Court found him guilty by a 10 to two majority verdict in December 2010.

A central prosecution witness was the couple's daughter, Kelly Keeley, who was only six at the time of her mother’s death.

She claimed to have witnessed her father attack and drown her mother in the bath.

During the trial, Mawhinney's legal team argued the true version of events was given by Ms Keeley the day after her mother died — when she told police she found Ms Mills snoring in the bath and minutes later discovered her face and head had fallen into the water.

But prosecuting barrister Ciaran Murphy QC stressed that Mawhinney's daughter quite independently revealed to police what she knew in 2009.

He also told the court that the appellant repeatedly lied about the circumstances of the drowning, and how he allegedly discovered Ms Mills' body.

“We say it's not just one lie, but it's a complex lying account in terms of the additional false information,” the barrister said.

Mr Murphy pointed to Ms Keeley's account of a history of arguments and claims that her father inflicted bruising on her mother.

He offered a further counter-argument to the lack of any signs of a struggle in the bathroom.

“Mr Mawhinney finds his partner drowned or drowning — as far as he was concerned (he is) presented with an emergency,” he told the court.

In the circumstances of an alleged attempt to save her life, evidence of broken or damaged objects should have been expected, it was claimed.

The appeal hearing continues.

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