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Lu Na McKinney murder trial hears from first responder at Lough Erne tragedy

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Stephen McKinney at court previously

Stephen McKinney at court previously

Stephen McKinney at court previously

The trial of a man accused of murdering his wife during a family boating holiday on Fermanagh’s Lower Lough Erne has heard that her lifeless body could be “clearly” seen just feet from their hire cruiser.

Dungannon Crown Court has already heard that Lu Na McKinney (35) was pulled from the lough close to Devenish Island in the early hours of April 13, 2017.

Her husband Stephen (43), now with an address in Castletown Square, Fintona, Co Tyrone, denies her murder.

A police constable with 15 years’ experience with the RNLI told the trial that, when the police launch the Lady Grey drew close to the moored hire cruiser, he could clearly see “a black object” in the water.

He said the weather was good — a moonlight night, calm waters, no rain.

He said that he could see a male, which turned out to be Stephen McKinney, standing wrapped in a red blanket while on the phone, and although he shouted at him twice, asking “where has she gone in?” he believed he got no reply from him.

“I saw a black object in the water close to the rear stern of the boat. It was... it wasn’t very large. I would say about a foot, two feet in diameter, as I could see... from experience I believed I could tell it was a person

“At that point it was very close, or the black object was very close to the stern of the boat,” the constable added.

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Stephen McKinney's wife Lu Na

Stephen McKinney's wife Lu Na

Stephen McKinney's wife Lu Na

Asked if McKinney said anything at that stage, the officer said it was his belief or recollection he told him, “it’s her”. The constable said his voice was “very quiet, it certainly wasn’t excitable”.

He said the brow of the Lady Grey was too high to effect a rescue attempt, so after manoeuvring the launch around, he was able to get on the jetty and then jump down to the McKinney cruiser.

Telling the court he had asked McKinney to move back, he added he could clearly see what he took to be a body, but could not reach it by hand.

So using a boat hook from the police launch, he was able to grab on to the hood of the object, before being able to reach down and get hold of the body.

He added, that with the help of a crewman from the RNLI, they were able first to lift Mrs McKinney onto the cruiser diving platform, and then on to the jetty. The officer said he checked for vital signs, but found none and then began CPR.

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Police and emergency services at the scene in April 2017.

Police and emergency services at the scene in April 2017.

Police and emergency services at the scene in April 2017.

The officer said Mrs McKinney was then rushed by boat to the Trory jetty where an ambulance transferred her to hospital.

On his return to the cruiser he told McKinney of his wife being taken to hospital and suggested he go with her, but he refused several times, before agreeing.

Under cross-examination by defence QC Martin O’Rourke, the constable accepted that he could not be sure the ‘black object’ was indeed a body in the water, until he had retrieved it. He also said that Mrs McKinney had been floating in an upright position in the water.

Later the driver of the police launch said he too saw “a body in the water” while standing on the west jetty at Devenish Island by the moored hire cruiser.

He said his colleague with the help of one of the crew of the lifeboat, managed to lift Mrs McKinney out of the water. Afterwards, he was able to help lift her body on to the jetty.

The officer said that Mr McKinney was "pacing about to and fro in the cabin, and kept asking — 'where’s Lu Na'”. He said he told him that she had been taken away by another boat.

He said when the police launch first arrived, he thought that McKinney had said “she’s here... or... she’s there”.

The constable went on to add that to him, Mr McKinney “was very calm”, and like his colleague he also noticed two rectangular water containers, both of which appeared partially empty.

In cross-examination he agreed in his statement, made a few days later, he said he believed Mr McKinney may have been in shock as he was pacing up and down the rear of the boat area, and that he kept asking ”where’s Lu Na?”

In a further statement, made in July, he agreed that when he said body was face down in the water, this was speculation, as he only realised it was a body when it was taken out of the water.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph