Fifteen years after a mother-of-two was drowned in the bath in front of her six-year-old daughter, her partner has been convicted of her murder.
William Mawhinney (51) nodded his head as he was told yesterday that he will serve a life sentence after a jury found him guilty of murdering his 35-year-old partner Lorraine Mills on May 28, 1995.
Ms Mills was found dead in her bath at their home on the Ballykeel Estate in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
The couple’s daughter Kelly Keeley gave evidence against her father during the murder trial, telling Belfast Crown Court that she had watched him kill her mother.
She said she remembered being in the bathroom while her mother was in the bath singing her favourite song Danny Boy, when she heard her father coming up the stairs.
“He came into the bathroom and then he shut the door behind him.
“He locked it with a bolt which was quite high up on the door. He seemed pretty calm and had a wooden object in his pocket. He went over to my mum and started to lean over her.
“I couldn't see exactly what he was doing because he was in my line of view.
“He went over to my mother and seemed to push her down under the water, as her body moved when he did this,” she explained.
Miss Keeley, who currently lives in England, was not in court yesterday to see her father being found guilty of her mother’s murder.
It took a jury of five men and seven women five hours over two days to convict Mawhinney with a majority verdict.
The former Ballymena man, who moved to England a year after Ms Mills’ death, was smiling as he was led into the dock after the court was told the jury had reached a verdict. He looked nervous, however, as the jury filed into the courtroom.
Judge Mr Justice Weir told the killer: “The law prescribes only one sentence, that of life imprisonment, and I now pass that upon you.”
He will set the minimum life tariff next month that Mawhinney must serve before he is considered for release after the production of pre-sentence reports.
Ms Mills’ brother Chris Mills said he believed Mawhinney had always been violent towards his sister and he was relieved that he had finally been found guilty of her murder.
“I knew all along that he had something to do with her death and I’ve been proven right. He can’t harm her anymore.
“She doesn’t have to take anymore beatings from him. She is free of him,” Mr Mills said.
“We have waited for 15 years for this day and I am just chuffed to bits. I think Kelly will be over the Moon, too,” he added.
Mawhinney was first arrested at the time of the murder but was later freed without charge due to a lack of evidence.
It was only after his eldest daughter came forward to police 14 years later to say that she had been a witness to the killing that Mawhinney was re-arrested by police at his home in England in July 2009.