Belfast Telegraph

Murderer McClenaghan 'truly sorry' for shotgun killing of Marion Millican, court told

By John Cassidy

The family of murdered Marion Millican have heard for the first time that her killer told police he was "truly sorry'' for shooting her dead over six years ago.

The 51-year-old mother-of-four was blasted to death in March 2011 by her former partner in the Portstewart launderette where she worked.

In September this year, on the third day of a new trial, Fred McClenaghan (55), of Broad Street, Magherafelt, finally pleaded guilty to shooting Mrs Millican dead with a 100-year-old shotgun.

At two separate jury trials in Antrim and Belfast he had previously been found guilty of her murder, but both convictions were later overturned in the Court of Appeal.

McClenaghan had pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, claiming he had gone to the launderette to speak to Mrs Millican, and his plan was to kill himself.

But he claimed that when an argument broke out between them Mrs Millican grabbed the weapon and the gun went off in a struggle.

However, the manslaughter plea and McClenaghan's version of events were rejected by the prosecution, who said the killing was no accident, but "murder, pure and simple''.

After he pleaded guilty to murder, McClenaghan was handed an automatic life sentence. Yesterday a tariff hearing was held to determine how long he would spend in prison before he is eligible to apply for parole.

Senior prosecution counsel Richard Weir QC told Mr Justice Adrian Colton that Mrs Millican's family had gone through each of the trials and the appeals "and now finality has been brought about by the accused's plea of guilty''.

He added: "They now know this is at an end and they can begin the process of dealing with their grief."

Mr Weir also told the court: "There is still a lot of uncertainty about exactly what Mr Fred McClenaghan did in the launderette. That is still unclear and the murder still remains a mystery.

"What we can say quite clearly is that she was struck by an aimed shot and that was probably preceded by a punch. So how this murder came about - we say it was a deliberate murder, it was an aimed shot preceded by some other violence.''

Mr Justice Colton heard that McClenaghan had a criminal record for violence including convictions for common assault, robbery and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The senior prosecutor said that there had been a history of violence by McClenaghan towards Mrs Millican in the course of their relationship and it was this "nasty violence'' which had "brought the relationship to an end''.

"This was a case of: 'If I can't have her, nobody else can','' said Mr Weir.

Defence counsel John McCrudden said that Mrs Millican was a "completely innocent and an entirely undeserving victim''.

"The accused is remorseful in that context," he said. "From the day of the shooting he said he was sorry. He told a constable at the scene: 'It should have been me lying there'. At police interview, in a written statement, he said he was 'truly sorry'.

"He has expressed his complete remorse for what happened.''

The judge said he had received fresh information on the case.

"It is important to consider all of the material I have received and to ensure the defendant and the public understand the reasons for my final decision," he said. "I am going to reserve my judgment.''

McClenaghan was remanded back into custody to await the tariff ruling on November 20.

Belfast Telegraph

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