Fred McClenaghan admits shotgun murder of former lover Marion Millican
Admission comes after two previous trails
In a dramatic turn of events on Tuesday following three murder trials, County Londonderry man Fred McClenaghan finally admitted his guilt and was jailed for life for the cold blooded shotgun murder of his former lover 51-year-old Marion Millican.
The mother-of-four was blasted in the chest at point blank range by McClenaghan who had gone to the Portstewart laundrette where she had worked on March 11 2011.
On Tuesday his Belfast Crown Court trial was to hear further evidence regarding the circumstances following the shooting, but this did not happen.
Then after lunch, in the dramatic turn, defence QC John McCrudden applied to trial judge Mr Justice Coulton for the murder charge to be put to McClenaghan again.
Mr McCrudden in thanking the judge and jury of seven women and three men said that in a case of "great complexity" matters had to be dealt with and "as a result of the time afforded to us I have been instructed by my client to have him rearraigned on the charge of murder".
McClenaghan, who until today claimed that the killing of Mrs Millican was an accident committed as he botched his own suicide, replied in a quiet voice, "guilty" when the murder charge was read to him again.
Mr Justice Coulton then told the 55-year-old from Broad Street in Magherafelt: "You have pleaded guilty to the offence of murder and that being so the only sentence I can impose on you by law is life imprisonment."
The judge added that next month he will hold a tarriff hearing to determine how long the county Londonderry man must serve before he is considered for release by the Parole Commissioners.
In the past McClenaghan, who has only ever admitted the manslaughter of Marion Millican, was twice convicted and jailed for life with a tarriff of 16 years being fixed, both of which were subsequently overturned on appeal which until today could not be reported.
During each of his trials, McClenaghan maintained he accidentally shot her while intending to kill himself in front of her, but the prosecution has always insisted that what happened was no "accident .... this was a case, simply, of murder."
The prosecution even rejected his guilty plea to her unlawful killing, entered during his second trial. The jury in that trial also rejected the manslaughter plea, and convicted him, as had the original jury, of murder.
His trials had heard that after splitting from her husband Kenneth in September 2009, Mrs Millican had formed a relationship with McClenaghan the following year, a relationship, described as peppered with "episodes of violence".
At the start of this, his third trial last week, prosecution QC Richard Weir claimed that when, because of it, that relationship soured and ended around Christmas that year, McClenaghan became consumed by "a burning resentment of her".
What was more, by the following March a planned reconciliation between Mrs Millican and former husband Ken was "well advanced".
While Mr Weir also said that McClenaghan talked of suicidal feelings, he had confided in a nurse he wanted to kill his former partner.
The court heard that McClenaghan told one counsellor: "I am afraid of what I am capable of. My plan is to kill my girlfriend and myself."
He also told a psychiatric nurse he felt abandoned by his girlfriend and was angry at her for ending their relationship.
On the day of the shooting McClenaghan armed with a 100-year-old antique shotgun, never registered with police throughout its history, went to the launderette to confront Mrs Millican who was having lunch with her work colleague Pamela Henry.
As he appeared, Mrs Millican said, "you are not going to believe who this is?", before McClenaghan grabbed her by the arm, telling her, "you are coming with me for a talk".
Fearing for her life, she refused, and McClenaghan initially fired a shot into the floor, before her colleague managed to make good escape. Moments later there was another blast from the shotgun leaving Mrs Millican lying dying face down in a pool of blood.
McClenaghan fled the scene, dumping his shotgun in a ditch by the roadside as he drove to Kilrea where he confessed to the sister of a former partner that he had just "shot a girl in Portstewart".
He also claimed that he wanted only to talk to her but she pulled on the shotgun and as they struggled it went off. He later told detectives sent to arrest him: "I am saying it was me".
During eight subsequent interviews McClenaghan remained mostly silent as detectives questioned him, until that is, his solicitor presented police with a prepared written statement.
In it McClenaghan apologised for the shooting and claimed: "It was my intention to kill myself in front of Marion, who would witness my suicide.
"I didn't intend to kill or harm Marion ... her death was an accident. I am truly sorry."
However, by his plea on Tuesday McClenaghan has finally accepted what the Mrs Millican's family, and friends have known all along, and what the prosecution has always claimed that what happened was "murder, pure and simple".
Belfast Telegraph Digital