| 13.4°C Belfast

Shotgun killing of woman at laundrette was murder pure and simple, trial jury is told

A man who claims he accidentally shot his former lover dead in a seaside laundrette has been told that it was "murder pure and simple" at the opening of his trial.

Fred McClenaghan said he intended to kill himself in front of 51-year-old Marion Millican on March 11 last year.

The 49-year-old Co Antrim man denies murdering the mother of four by blasting her in the chest with a shotgun in the Portstewart laundrette where she worked.

Prosecuting QC Richard Weir told the jury at Antrim Crown Court that although McClenaghan had told counsellors of suicidal feelings in the months before the shooting, he had also admitted that his plan was to kill his girlfriend and then himself.

Trial Judge Corinne Philpott QC was told that after separating from her husband Kenneth in September 2009, Mrs Millican had formed a relationship with McClenaghan — a relationship described as being peppered with "episodes of violence".

Mr Weir said a number of witnesses would give evidence of what Mrs Millican had told them about this, while others would tell of what they had "observed on Mrs Millican's body".

Eventually, in or around December 2010, she left McClenaghan and in the short months prior to her death, she and her husband began seeing each other again. Mr Weir said they "were on the path of reconciliation and a resumption of their marriage".

On the day of the shooting McClenaghan (below), from Broad Street, Magherafelt, was captured on CCTV entering the shop armed with a gun. He went to the kitchen where he confronted Mrs Millican and her friend Pamela Henry.

Grabbing Mrs Millican, he demanded she went with him to talk, but she refused. At this point McClenaghan fired one shot into the ground between Marion and her workmate — who ran and locked herself in the toilet before escaping and raising the alarm.

Meanwhile Mrs Millican and McClenaghan struggled over the shotgun. He later told the sister of another former girlfriend that he had "shot a girl in Portstewart" during which he had also fired a shot in the air, and that he told the girl to let go of the gun, but she didn't and "the gun then went off".

Mr Weir said during interview McClenaghan had remained mostly silent, although his solicitor did hand in a prepared statement which was then read to detectives. In McClenaghan’s statement he claimed he planned to commit suicide in front of Mrs Millican and that her shooting was an accident.

"It was my intention to kill myself... and that Marion would witness my suicide".

The statement further alleged that he "did not intend to harm Marion... Marion's death was accidental and I am truly sorry".

However, Mr Weir said that forensic tests surrounding the circumstances of the shooting "gives

the lie to the claim that her death was an accident".

The prosecution also claimed that McClenaghan had equipped himself with a shotgun and had gone to the laundrette "motivated by his anger at Marion Millican ending their relationship".

Mr Weir said that "[he] deliberately shot her ... killing her as he had foretold".

"We say this is murder pure and simple," declared the lawyer.

The trial which is expected to last a month continues today.

Belfast Telegraph