A marine engineer who showed a man accused of killing his wife on a family holiday cruise how to operate the pleasure boat has admitted only filling out a safety check-list form after hearing of her death.
Lu Na McKinney was pulled from the water next to a cruiser moored by a jetty at Devenish Island by police after her husband, Stephen McKinney, had raised the alarm in two 999 calls to the emergency services.
Her 44-year-old husband, a father of two, denies murdering his 35-year-old wife during the April 2017 family holiday on Lower Lough Erne to mark the couple’s upcoming 14th wedding anniversary.
The engineer who filled out the pro-forma ‘boat acceptance certificate’ following her death, indicating all safety procedures and equipment had been gone through with Mr McKinney, denied doing so to create a ‘false’ document.
The Manor House Marina engineer told the Dungannon Crown Court trial if he had wanted to ‘falsify’ the form which also included the previous day’s date, he would have forged Mr McKinney’s signature.
The engineer was being cross-examined by defence QC Martin O’Rourke for Mr McKinney originally from Strabane, but who lived with his wife and children in Flaxfield, Convoy, Co Donegal, and now has an address in Castletown Square, Fintona, Co Tyrone.
Under cross-examination by Mr O’Rourke, the engineer who at one point suggested he may have filled out the pro-forma on the night of the tragedy, maintained it was never his intention to falsify any documentation.
He agreed he and Mr McKinney should have had signed the form after completing it, having ticked off each item of equipment on the check list, including that there were adequate life-jackets onboard.
The engineer accepted this was not done, explaining, “because I forgot to do it”, but that when he heard of Mrs McKinney’s death, he got a blank form, but could not remember where he got the form or why he did so.
He also agreed that he had ticked all the boxes on the work sheet, and that he “might have been asked” by his marina boss for the form. He said he had filled in many forms but that there were also occasions when he “forgot to do it”.
Asked if he was “anxious to get this form filled out”, he claimed he could not remember and that he “could have filled it out the night before, or that morning ... it was a long time ago”.
While he accepted it was a “false document”, in that what he had ticked in the boxes was “untrue” and signed it, he claimed “it wasn’t a legal document”.
On being pressed by Mr O’Rourke as to why he had filled out the form and signed it and if in so doing he was trying to make it out it was completed at the proper time with Mr McKinney, he denied the suggestion.
“If I wanted to make it look like that I would have signed the customer’s signature on it,” said the engineer, who however claimed he did not know what became of “this false document”.
He maintained if he had “wanted to falsify document I would have signed Stephen’s name on it”.
Asked by counsel if the reason behind completing the form was “to indicate there were the correct number of life jackets” onboard the cruiser, he repeated: “If I wanted to do that I would have signed the name on it.... this is not a legal document.”
However, earlier the engineer agreed it was his “fault” the correct number of life jackets were not on the cruiser, and that he knew there were only two available and not four as he had told police in is witness statement.
He said in the middle of showing the family the working of the cruiser he “forgot about” the life jackets, as he was “concentrating on something else ... but it was my fault ... it went out of my head”.
The trial continues.