THE jury in the trial of a Magherafelt man accused of murdering his ex-partner has heard details of the moment he was arrested for the fatal shooting.
Fred McClenaghan (52), of Broad Street, Magherafelt, denies murdering mother-of-four Marion Millican in a Portstewart launderette over three years ago, claiming he accidentally shot her during a botched suicide attempt.
His guilty plea to manslaughter was rejected earlier this week by the prosecution at his Antrim Crown Court trial sitting in Belfast.
Today, two police officers stationed in Coleraine PSNI station told the jury of how they tracked down McClenaghan following the shooting on the afternoon of March 11, 2011.
A police constable said he and a detective colleague had been detailed to search for McClenaghan’s yellow coloured Renault Clio car, registration number CHZ 7771.
“We then received a message over the police radio that the car had been traced to a fold in Kilrea and we went there.’’
The officer said that when they arrived they found the Clio car in the carpark and he was met by the manager of the fold Sheila Donnelly.
“I asked her where Freddie was and she said he was in the kitchen. I asked her if he was armed and she said he had no gun.
“I went into the fold and then into the kitchen and there was a male who identified himself as Fred McClenaghan.’’
The officer said he cautioned McClenaghan and arrested on him suspicion of murder. After caution, the officer asked him if he wanted to saying and he replied: “No’’.
Added the constable: “I took him from the fold to the police vehicle outside. The detective who was with me informed other police by radio that he had been arrested. Mr McClenaghan was searched and put in the police vehicle.’’
The officer said other police arrived with a forensic suit and “I put it on him’’.
Asked by prosecution counsel John McCrudden QC why he had not searched McClenaghan when he was in the fold, that he could have had a knife, the officer replied: “I was confident that he had nothing on him.’’
In re-examination, prosecution barrister Neil Connor asked the officer: “Were you armed?’’
Mr Connor: “What sort of weapon were carrying?’’
Officer: “A Glock pistol.’’
A detective constable also told the jury, sitting with trial judge Mr Justice Treacy, that when McClenaghan was taken out of the fold he said he searched him and found a phone in his hip pocket.
“He was put in the police vehicle and I got in and sat beside him in the back seat. He said to me: “It should be me lying there’.
“I asked him where the firearm was and he said it was somewhere between Ballymoney and Ballybogey. He said that if we drove him there he might recall where it was. He said he had thrown it into a ditch or a hedge.’’
The detective said that after McClenaghan’s hands were put in cable ties and then placed in the forensic suit, he replied: “There is no need for this. I am saying it was me.’’
The CID officer said he and his colleague then left Kilrea to search for the gun and said that as they were driving between Ballymone and Ballybogey McClenaghan identified the lane way where he claimed to have dumped the long-barrelled shotgun.
“We drove up the laneway and the defendant pointed to an area where the gun was. I got out of the vehicle and went over to the area he had indicated. I saw the stock of the gun which I believed to be a shotgun, a long-barrelled shotgun, in the windbushes.’’
The detective added he alerted other police that the weapon had been located and conveyed McClenaghan to the serious crime suite in Antrim to be processed.
The jury also heard evidence from a forensic practitioner who said he examined McClenaghan on behalf of the PSNI at the serious crime suite following his arrest on Mar 11, 2011 for the murder of Mrs Millican.
In answer to questions from prosecution counsel Richard Weir QC, the doctor said that during the first examination at 8.45 p, McClenaghan told him that he had been suffering from depression for the past nine months and was on anti-depressant medication.
However, he told the doctor that he had not taken his anti-depressant medication for a number of days.
The jury heard that two weeks before the shooting, the defendant attended with a community psychiatric nurse and had also seen a counsellor from the charity Nexus about being sexually abused as a child.
“He said that he still had thoughts of self harm and on that day (of the killing) he was going to shoot himself,’’ the doctor told the jury.
He added that McClenaghan told him he had gone to see his former girlfriend Marion Millican with an illegal gun and that “during a struggle she grabbed the gun and he shot her accidentally’’.
The doctor told the court: “I examined him and noted he was very irritated. He was shouting at times and was angry at the fact as to why no one would do anything about the fact that he had thoughts of self harming.’’
The forensic examiner said he concluded that McClenaghan was “fit to be detained and fit to be interviewed.
“However, I said that he should be constantly observed because of his past history of self harm.
“I thought he would require an appropriate adult to sit in the interviews because of his altered mental state.’’
The doctor added that at 11.30pm when he examined McClenaghan again, he noticed a change in McClenaghan’s mood, saying he was “calm and not irritated’’.