THE trial of 43-year-old Strabane man Stephen McKinney, accused of murdering his wife on Lough Erne, has been halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
It was due to resume today (Wednesday) at Dungannon Crown Court with witnesses ready to give evidence to a jury of seven men and five women.
McKinney, who is residing at a bail address in Fintona, is alleged to have intentionally drowned his wife Lu Na (35) by causing her to go into Lough Erne while she was incapacitated by sleeping tablets during a family boating holiday in April in 2017.
He strenuously denies the charge and claims she slipped and fell into the water when checking ropes on the deck as they were moored at Devenish Island.
In all, over 100 witnesses are expected to give evidence. It has been held up on a number of occasions by legal discussion and was in its fourth week.
Prison officers and security at the court wore plastic gloves due to the Coronavirus emergency.
Madam Justice McBride called off the trial and said, “Social distancing clearly has implications for this trial. Two members of the jury have already advised us that they are in the vulnerable group. This is a long trial.
“Given advice from government and in light of advice from the Lord Chief Justice I consider this trial cannot realistically proceed and I am going to discharge the jury in the circumstances described as an ‘unprecedented emergency’ and not something we have had to deal with before.”
McKinney was released on ongoing bail. A date for a new trial has not been fixed.