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Man accused of murdering his wife Lu Na McKinney on a boating trip blamed himself for death, court is told

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Devenish Island, where Lu Na McKinney died

Devenish Island, where Lu Na McKinney died

� Ronan McGrade Photography 078

Lu Na McKinney

Lu Na McKinney

Lu Na McKinney's husband, Stephen McKinney is accused of her murder

Lu Na McKinney's husband, Stephen McKinney is accused of her murder

Devenish Island, where Lu Na McKinney died

The trial of a man accused of murdering his wife during a family boating holiday to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary heard on Monday that he blamed himself for her death.

Dungannon Crown Court heard that Stephen McKinney (43) told police that while he tried his best to save his 35-year-old wife Lu Na, and as a "man" should have, he also lamented the fact she was not wearing a life jacket.

The trial, now in its third week, was told the McKinney's decided to celebrate their May anniversary early because he would not be available and had taken the children for an Easter boating holiday on Fermanagh's Lower Lough Erne.

Mr McKinney, originally from Strabane, now has an address in Castletown Square, Fintona, Co Tyrone.

He denies murdering his wife, whose lifeless body was pulled from the lough in the early hours of April 13, 2017.

One officer who went to the west jetty of Devenish Island, where the tragedy unfolded, recorded in his notebook Mr McKinney appeared "numb and preoccupied about the safety of his wife and children ... he wasn't there at the moment as if he couldn't hear the questions being asked".

Under cross-examination by defence QC Martin O'Rourke, the officer accepted he had described Mr McKinney as being "extremely distressed and erratic ... unable to follow basic instructions at times".

Another officer who accompanied Mr McKinney and his children to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, said he was "sombre, his head was down and obviously was upset ... his eyes were puffy and watery as well, and obviously he had been crying ... concerned for his wife, asking about her condition".

He said the conversation they had, he recorded a short-time later, in his police notebook, in which Mr McKinney told him: "I tried my best to save her. She can't swim. I heard a splash and I heard 'help' and I jumped in.

"I had hold of her and the boat and she kept pulling me down.

"I tried my best ... I kept trying to hold her up ... I'm not a good swimmer, that's why my children are learning to swim."

After being told his wife had died, the officer saw Mr McKinney in the smoking area outside A&E and they had another conversation.

The officer said he recorded, within "speech marks" what Mr McKinney told him: "I'm supposed to be a man and be there and save her ... I don't want to go into there and speak to the children, but I have to be a man".

"I jumped in and had hold of the boat and did my best to save her ... if only she was wearing a life jacket ... there's only two on the boat and they were in with the children in case the boat sank ... they were supposed to throw two more over and they didn't.

"The boat was tied. If only she was wearing a life jacket ... I should have saved her."

The officer said Mr McKinney was emotional, his eyes still puffy and at one stage he was crying.

A second officer said he was with Mr McKinney when a doctor informed him that despite doing everything possible to resuscitate his wife she had died.

He said Mr McKinney remained "calm ... fairly subdued ... didn't shout or raise his voice, or break down in tears", and at the news: "I think he said 'I knew it. How am I going to tell the children?'"

The officer said to him the conversation was "significant" and made a note in his notebook within minutes.

He said the father-of-two told him he and his wife were having "a quiet evening on the boat playing Monopoly and had a few beers", but that Lu Na complained the "boat was moving. I said it wasn't but she's very fussy and she argued with me.

"Then she went out. I heard a shout. I went to help. How am I going to tell the children?"

He said Mr McKinney was taken to see his wife and spent "a very short time ... one or two minutes" with her. The officer said when he emerged from behind the curtain, he did not observe any tears or high emotion.

He said Mr McKinney had seemed anxious to go back home to Co Donegal very quickly but agreed with Mr O'Rourke that he had said he wanted to get home with his children.

Belfast Telegraph