Marion Millican gun killer had a ‘diseased mind’

Marion Millican was murdered in the Portstewart launderette where she worked in March 2011
Marion Millican was murdered in the Portstewart launderette where she worked in March 2011

The man who murdered Marion Millican had a “diseased mind” and had been descending into a “Narnia of darkness” before killing her over six years ago, a court has heard.

Mrs Millican, a mother of four, was shot to death in the Portstewart launderette where she worked in March 2011 by her former partner.

In September this year Fred McClenaghan, 55 and of Broad Street, Magherafelt, finally pleaded guilty to shooting her dead with a 100-year-old shotgun.

He had previously been found guilty at two separate jury trials in Antrim and Belfast of her murder but both convictions were later overturned.

After his guilty plea to murder, McClenaghan was handed an automatic life sentence.

On Wednesday, a hearing was held to determine how long it would be before he was eligible to apply for parole.

Senior prosecution counsel Richard Weir QC told Mr Justice Adrian Colton: “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.”

The court has heard McClenaghan a record for violence including convictions for assault, robbery and actual bodily harm.

Defence counsel John McCrudden that the accused had “complete remorse”. Previous hearings have heard that he told police he was “truly sorry”.

The judge heard McClenaghan had written a letter to Mrs Millican, which she never got to read, detailing his “tormented mind” and distress at dealing with past sexual abuse in his childhood by a policeman.

The barrister said McClenaghan had received cardiac treatment in 2010, and one side effect of his medication was that it brought on nightmares from the abuse at the age of eight.

Mr McCrudden said when McClenaghan had assaulted Mrs Millican during their relationship, he was “descending into a Narnia of darkness”.

During his previous trial in 2014, a Lifeline counsellor said McClenaghan phoned the charity on Christmas Eve and told her about a murder suicide plot.

Mr McCrudden said this showed that at the time McClenaghan was suffering from a “diseased mind” and was not deliberately planning murder.

The court heard that mental health professionals feared McClenaghan was “actively suicidal” in the days leading up to the murder.

The defence barrister said McClenaghan should be given credit for his guilty plea, and told the judge that he should sentence the accused as if it was his first trial, as the previous two no longer counted.

He concluded: “I would urge your lordship to sit back and look at the case in the round and do justice to it.”

Mr Justice Colton he needed to consider documents before ruling on the sentence.

He said: “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. I am going to reserve my judgement.”

McClenaghan was remanded in custody to await the ruling on November 20.