Judgement reserved in Magherafelt man’s appeal against murder conviction

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

Judgment was reserved today in an appeal by a Magherafelt man jailed for shooting dead his ex-lover in a laundrette.

Fred McClenaghan is seeking to overturn his conviction for murdering Marion Millican by claiming his shotgun went off by accident.

Following a two-day heating senior judges pledged to give their verdict on his challenge “pretty quickly”.

Mrs Millican, a 51-year-old mother of four, was shot in the chest at her workplace in Portstewart, Co Derry in March 2011. She died at the scene.

The victim had been in a relationship with McClenaghan, 51, which ended months before the killing.

During the murder trial her husband told how they had been trying to rekindle their marriage at the time she died.

Ken Millican described finding his wife’s body on the floor of the laundrette on the day of the killing, and his failed attempts to locate a pulse.

The weapon used was an antique, double-barreled shotgun which dated back to the late 19th century.

McClenaghan, formerly of Broad Street, Magherafelt, is serving a minimum 16 years in jail for murder.

His case has always been that the gun went off unintentionally during a struggle in the laundrette.

Defence lawyers argued that his hopes of proving the killing was accidental were dashed by protocol breaches in examining the hair-trigger weapon.

It was alleged that serious flaws occurred during the testing process.

A further ground of appeal centred on a claim that McClenaghan’s responsibility was diminished by mental illness and coming off anti-depressant medication before the shooting.

His legal team claimed a defence toxicologist was wrongly excluded from commenting on the scale of impairment the withdrawal would have caused.

Counsel for the prosecution argued that the trial judge only placed a small limit on his evidence after becoming uncomfortable with his degree of expertise in that area.

Pressed today on the issue of the toxicologist’s evidence on diminished responsibility, Richard Weir QC acknowledged: “If he was excluded in that total way I have to accept that was a bridge too far.”

Following arguments the three appeal judges reserved their verdict.

Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Gillen, said: “We will think about the submissions and be in a position to give our decision pretty quickly.”