PSNI officers to be censured for failing to protect gun victim
Several police officers are to face disciplinary action following the murder of a mother-of-four who was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend.
An investigation by the Police Ombudsman revealed the PSNI had been made aware of previous threats by Fred McClenaghan to kill his former lover Marion Millican, but failed to protect her.
The police watchdog said officers failed to take “appropriate action” after receiving a report McClenaghan owned a gun illegally — three months before he murdered her.
The Ombudsman said there was “sufficient warning” for officers to take more action.
Mrs Millican, originally from Coleraine, died after she was shot in the chest in a launderette on March 11, 2011. McClenaghan (49), from Broad Street in Magherafelt, was convicted of her murder in Antrim Crown Court yesterday.
But the Police Ombudsman said it had established through an investigation that in December 2010 the PSNI received a report that McClenaghan had threatened to kill both Mrs Millican and himself. The PSNI notified her of this threat.
The police also became aware of a second threat on January 25.
The person who provided the information to the PSNI said they believed McClenaghan had a gun — but could not confirm ever having seen it.
Mrs Millican was shot with an antique double-barrelled shotgun dating back to the late 19th century. The police confirmed during the trial that the gun was never licensed to anyone in Northern Ireland.
The Police 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 confirmed in the statement: “Several police officers are to face disciplinary sanction arising from a Police Ombudsman investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of Marion Millican.”
A PSNI statement said: “Police have reviewed the report from the Police Ombudsman's office and are currently considering its finding.”
The jury sitting in Antrim Crown Court deliberated for just an hour and 20 minutes before convicting McClenaghan.
McClenaghan had been in a relationship with Mrs Millican (51), but this had ended in December 2010. She had, however, been attempting to rekindle her marriage in the months prior to the shooting.
During the trial the court heard McClenaghan had once tried to strangle her after a night out, and in a separate incident had knocked her out.
A number of mental health experts and counsellors who were treating him in the months before the shooting spoke of how he told them about wanting to kill himself and his former girlfriend.
He remained silent during 14 interviews with police over two days, apart from one occasion when his solicitor read out a prepared statement on his behalf during the 11th interview.
In it he said: “It was my intention to kill myself on 11 March and Marion would witness my suicide. I did not intend to kill Marion. I did not intend to harm Marion. Marion's death was an accident. I am sorry.”
He showed no emotion as the verdict was announced, but waved at relatives in the public gallery before being led away.
Judge Corinne Philpott QC told McClenaghan he would be jailed for life but that she would fix the minimum tariff he would have to serve before being considered for release on parole in September.
Speaking briefly outside the court, relatives of Mrs Millican embraced each other.
Her daughter Suzanne said justice had been done. “We are very pleased with the verdict,” she said. “She is sadly missed.”
Pamela Henry, a former colleague of Mrs Millican who witnessed the shooting, paid tribute to her: “She was a wonderful mate, wife, mother, aunt and granny.”
He had already beaten and tried to strangle her ... Marion never stood a chance
It was every woman’s worst nightmare. Mother-of-four Marion Millican had begun seeing Fred McClenaghan shortly after the break-up of her 34-year marriage. Within months, however, as quickly as the new relationship began it turned into a sinister series of attacks and threats.
The 51-year-old hoped to rekindle her relationship with her husband and she tried to walk away from McClenaghan — but her former boyfriend would not let her go.
There were, however, more disturbing reasons for the short-lived relationship with McClenaghan— someone the Millicans had both socialised with.
The 49-year-old, who had been treated by mental health professionals, had been violent towards Marion.
Months before he murdered her he tried to strangle her after a night out. He had also knocked her unconscious.
More disturbing, though, was that he had told health professionals of his thoughts about killing her and himself — and the police were aware of the threats she faced.
Details of the abuse emerged during the court case when a former workmate said Marion came in one Monday with a bruised neck.
A tearful Marion told her that McClenaghan — “an awful man for drink” — had had an argument in a bar.
He then followed her to his Broad Street home in Magherafelt, where they were living at the time, and “tried to strangle her”.
In December 2010 — the month she ended the relationship — the PSNI received a report that he had threatened to kill the mum-of-four and himself. They told her of this threat.
Within weeks, on January 25, the police also became aware of a second threat.
The person who provided the chilling information said they believed McClenaghan had a gun, but could not confirm ever having seen it. A number of mental health experts and counsellors who were treating him in the months before the shooting spoke of how he told them about wanting to kill himself and his former girlfriend.
A psychiatric nurse said that during an assessment in December 2010, McClenaghan said he had thoughts about “stabbing” his girlfriend and “overdosing” himself.
The convicted killer, who had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child, had told a charity counsellor that he planned to kill himself and Marion months before he shot her.
He was also afraid of what he might do.
And a senior social worker who met McClenaghan on February 24 said his former client had told him about having nightmares about killing people.
He said he felt Marion Millican had “deserted” him.
Such was the concern about his mental state, a follow-up appointment was arranged for March 15.
But that appointment never took place.
Marion was shot dead, four days before it was scheduled, in broad daylight in her place of work. On the day she died she had gone to the Portstewart launderette she had worked in for more than a decade.
As she sat eating her lunch and talking to colleagues McClenaghan walked in.
He was holding an antique double-barrelled shotgun.
Pamela Henry, who was with Marion at the time, described him as a “mad man... a man who was meaning business”.
“He was in a violent mood,” she told the court.
He grabbed Marion by the arm “shouting” that she should leave with him for a talk.
In his mind McClenaghan had accused his former lover of having ignored him, and all that he wanted was for her to talk to him.
Marion refused to go with him.
Suddenly McClenaghan aimed a shot into the ground, blasting a hole between where the two women were standing.
Terrified, Pamela said she locked herself in a toilet and was able to later raise the alarm.
But her friend, who had been shot in the chest, died at the scene.
Ken Millican found his wife's body on the floor of the launderette.
He tried to find a pulse but said he knew she was dead when he saw the blood.
McClenaghan claimed he had wanted to kill himself in front of his former lover.
“It was my intention to kill myself... and that Marion would witness my suicide,” he said in a statement.
But this was dismissed by a jury who took just over an hour to reach their verdict and convict him of her murder.
Now, 16 months after her murder, several PSNI officers are to face disciplinary sanctions after the Police Ombudsman investigation into circumstances surrounding her death. In a damning statement, it said there was “sufficient warning” to allow police to have taken more action.