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Husband to challenge expert evidence in murder case

Court

Stephen McKinney

The husband of a woman whose body was recovered from water following an alleged boating incident near Devenish Island, Fermanagh, is to challenge some expert evidence which has led to the charge of her murder.
Defence lawyers made the disclosure as Stephen McKinney (42) who had been residing in Lifford, but remanded on bail to an address at Castletown Square, Fintona, appeared for a scheduled committal hearing at Enniskillen Magistrates Court.
McKinney is accused of murdering his wife Lu Na, on a date between April 11 and 14 2017. She was originally from China, and the couple married in 2003, living in a number of places before settling in County Donegal. Aged 35 at the time of her death, she was mother of the couple’s two children, who were asleep onboard the boat when the alleged murder occurred.
A defending lawyer said having reviewed the case papers – of which there are 2500 pages – and on consulting with McKinney, a decision had been taken to seek an adjournment
A lawyer appearing for the prosecution said on the basis of what had been discussed, the next stage of the case would be a Preliminary Investigation (PI). This will require a district judge to be allocated to read the case papers, which given the volume will take an estimated 3-4 days, plus a full day to hear the defence submissions.
However the defence said they did not feel a full PI was required, as the issues are limited to the evidence of certain experts and what they say.
Deputy District Judge Trevor Browne remanded McKinney on continuing bail and ordered him to appear again later this month when a date for the hearing, will be allocated.
Mrs McKinney’s death was originally treated as a tragic accident during a family boating trip on Lough Erne, with the defendant adamant he had tried in vain to save her after she fell into the water.
However following intensive investigation in which police obtained statements from marina staff, expert witnesses, work colleagues of the deceased and telecommunications evidence, a murder inquiry was launched.
McKinney was arrested within days and charged with murder. He was initially refused bail after a court heard allegations of subjecting his wife to “controlling, degrading and manipulating” treatment.
Mobile phones and computers seized from McKinney led to the recovery Skype chats, sex videos and images involving the defendant, his wife and other unknown individuals.
It was claimed a chat log from 2014 found McKinney to be verbally abusive to his wife about their sex life, blaming her a separation, then encouraging her to engage in activities.
It was claimed McKinney gave varying recollections of how his wife fell overboard after taking sleeping pills, allegedly purchased on the internet.
Opinion sought from a pharmacologist contended Lu Na could not have functioned as described due to the “hypnotic-sedative effect” of the drugs.
Defence lawyers challenged the evidence, arguing the allegations against McKinney are based on “rumour and innuendo”.
Instead, it was contended after Lu Na entered the water, McKinney immediately dived in and while he temporarily managed to catch hold of her, she could not swim and he lost his grip.
The children, according to McKinney witnessed nothing, having slept throughout the incident.
Bail was later granted at High Court after a judge ruled the case against McKinney was circumstantial and there was no suggestion he had tendencies toward random violence.
Conditions imposed include a ban on leaving Northern Ireland and no contact with any witnesses, including his children without PSNI consent.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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