Final submissions in Magherafelt man’s murder trial

Murder accused Fred McClenaghan.
Murder accused Fred McClenaghan.
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THE jury in the trial of a 52-year-old Magherafelt man who claims he accidentally shot his former girlfriend while intending to kill himself have heard closing submissions in the case.

Fred McClenaghan, from Broad Street, Magherafelt, denies murdering Marion Millican on March 11, 2011 at the Portstewart launderette where she worked.

Prosecution barrister Neil Connor told the jury that the defendant had deliberately shot dead the mother-of-four out of “anger, jealousy and resentment’’ after she had ended their relationship the previous Christmas when he tried to strangle her following a night out.

Mr Connor said this was one of three incidents of domestic violence by the defendant towards Mrs Millican during their year-long relationship

In another incident the jury was told that McClenaghan had punched her to the side of the head knocking her unconscious.

Turning to the day of the shooting, Mr Connor told the jury: “This was not an accident. It was a deliberate act on his part.

“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.’’

The court heard the defence case was that McClenaghan was suffering from a “severe depressive order’’ at the time of the murder.

However, Mr Connor told the jury a psychiatrist called by the prosecution had dismissed this assertion saying McClenaghan was suffering from a “moderate depressive disorder’’.

He added that it was defence case that the 100-year-old 12-bore double barrelled shotgun had gone off accidentally during a struggle when Mrs Millican had grabbed the gun.

“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. We say this is a red herring.

“We now know that the gun is faulty but that’s after the defence expert broke the gun. It was working fine when it was examined by the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory after the murder.’’

Mr Connor added that there were many unanswered questions in the defence case in the events before, during and after the murder.

“The only person who can give those answers is sitting there (in the dock). He will not walk the short distance from there to there (the witness box).’’

Concluding the summing up of the prosecution case, Mr Connor said: “We say he deliberately shot her. He should take full responsibilty for what he did.

“We say he should be saddled with the full responsibility for his actions and in the circumstances we say he should be found guilty of murder.’’

IN his closing submission to the jury this afternoon (Monday), defence QC John McCrudden attacked the evidence of two expert prosecution witnesses from the Forensic Service of Northern Ireland as “unreliable’’.

They had been called to tell the trial how they had examined the shotgun after it was seized by police just hours after Fred McClenaghan had killed Marion Millican.

Mr McCrudden said that the sworn evidence the experts had given during the trial was “completely different’’ from that of the testimony they had given at the first trial two and a half years ago.

Likening the witnesses to two car salesman, he told the jury: “Would you buy a used car or a used gun from these two witnesses?’’

He added that the experts had not followed their own procedures or internationally recognised protocols on the testing of the antique shotgun weapon to prove whether the gun could have been accidentally discharged.

Branding their evidence as a “disgrace to the system its supposed to contribute to,’’ he told the jury: “They gave conflicting accounts. They were contradictory and unreliable accounts.’’

He said that at the time, McClenaghan was suffering from a “severe depressive disorder’’ who had been seen by 13 professional people about his “anxieties, problems, difficulties and suicidal ideations’’.

Mr McCrudden added: “At the time he had thoughts of harming her. He was seeking help. He was coming to them for help. He was not the classic murderer.

“He was in a deep, dark place that was scaring him as he was a danger to himself and to other people.’’

He told the jury that if they found that McClenaghan was suffering from diminished responsibility, “you should not convict him of murder but convict him of manslaughter’’.

Once Mr McCrudden finishes his closing submissions to the jury, trial judge Mr Justice Treacy is expected to address the jury tomorrow (Tuesday) before sending them away to consider their verdict.