Belfast Telegraph

Fred McClenaghan guilty of murder: 'He came in with a gun... poor wee Marion Millican, her face was so white, she knew, she knew'

By Harriet Crawford

While around her others clapped and cheered, Marion Millican's daughter allowed herself just a brief smile of relief.

Some relatives punched the air in celebration and shouted at murderer Fred McClenaghan as he was led out from the courtroom dock.

Mrs Millican's daughter Suzanne remained dignified, her hands clasped and head bowed after the verdict was delivered.

As McClenaghan was led to prison, one family member shouted: "You took our Marion and we won't forget it."

Suzanne and family members, including Mrs Millican's husband Ken had waited three-and-a-half years for justice. They sat through three trials and an appeal of the case against Mrs Millican's murderer.

McClenaghan drew a deep breath as trial judge Mr Justice Treacy and 11-member jury entered the court and turned to face to the front of the room. His eyes remained focused straight ahead on the judge while the verdict was delivered. McClenaghan then blinked rapidly on hearing the foreman pronounce him guilty of murder.

Justice had finally prevailed.

Marion Millican had known she was facing death at the hands of her former lover, her friend and colleague Pamela Henry had told the trial.

Mrs Henry was the last person apart from the killer to see Mrs Millican alive. They had been eating lunch together at the back of the laundrette when McClenaghan arrived with a gun and grabbed Marion by the arm, telling her: "You're coming with me. We have to talk."

Marion refused to go with him, pleading that her boss would soon return and that it was best if they just talked in the shop.

But McClenaghan fired a shot, blasting a hole in the kitchen floor between the two women.

Mrs Henry made a terrified dash for freedom, leaving her ashen-faced friend in the clutches of a "mad, violent" McClenaghan.

She said she looked back to see "poor wee Marion, her face was so white. She knew, she knew.

"I felt so sorry leaving her, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn't attempt to bring her with me," Mrs Henry explained to police.

Mrs Henry said Marion had winked and nodded to her, and agreed with police that it appeared as if her friend was telling her to get out.

Mrs Henry said when he came in "he was really aggressive, meaning business, and knowing what he was going to do".

After the killing McClenaghan ran to his car and sped off.

Despite saying it was an accident, he had not attempted to get help or call an ambulance.

After the alarm was raised, Mrs Millican's estranged husband Ken ran to the scene and cradled her in his arms.

They had been "on the path of reconciliation and a resumption of their marriage" before her death, the trial heard.

McClenaghan had deliberately shot dead Mrs Millican out of "anger, jealousy and resentment" after she had ended their relationship the previous Christmas, prosecution barrister Neil Connor said during the opening stages of the trial.

McClenaghan's attempt to strangle Mrs Millican following a night out "was the final straw" that ended a year-long abusive relationship that was "characterised by violence", the court was told. Such was the ferocity of the attack he had left finger-mark bruises around her neck.

This was the third incident of domestic abuse towards Mrs Millican, who had previously been punched unconscious by McClenaghan and on a separate incident during which her front tooth was damaged.

Following their break-up, McClenaghan made calls to Lifeline suicide prevention service in which he told a counsellor about a plan he had to kill his girlfriend and then kill himself.

The court was told in the months before her death Ms Millican was warned by police of a threat from McClenaghan.

The guilty verdict establishes that on the day of the killing, the murderer had entered the laundrette, armed with a shotgun with the specific intention of killing Mrs Millican or causing her really serious harm.

"We say it was a deliberate and intentional act," prosecution lawyer Mr Neil Connor said at the trial. "He did go there to punish her as he felt she had abandoned him. He was angry, jealous and he resented her.

"He went to the launderette, equipped himself with a shotgun with the purpose of killing Marion Millican."

During police interviews McClenaghan remained mostly silent, although in the final, eleventh interview, his solicitor did hand in a prepared statement that was read to detectives.

In the statement, McClenaghan claimed he planned to take his own life in front of Ms Millican and that her shooting was an accident.

During the trial, a psychiatrist called by the prosecution had dismissed the defence's assertion that McClenaghan was suffering from a "severe depressive order" at the time of the killing.

McClenaghan's claim that the antique, double-barrelled shotgun had gone off accidentally during a struggle with Mrs Millican was decided by the jury to be false.

The prosecution had described the claim as "a red herring" during the trial. "It was only in April this year that the defendant told someone that the gun was faulty. It took him over three years to say it was faulty," prosecution lawyer Mr Connor said.

"It was working fine when it was examined by the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory after the murder."

McClenaghan chose not to give evidence in court. His "sparse" denial and explanation was never made under oath, nor subjected to cross-examination.

Mr Justice Treacy questioned his decision to remain silent and not make the short walk to the witness box.

Mr Connor said: "The silence is deafening."

The guilty verdict was reached by the 11-person jury unusually quickly, in just 75 minutes.

Mrs Millican's family now await the sentencing of the man who murdered their loved one.

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