Strabane man charged with wife’s murder.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Strabane man charged with wife’s murder. thumbnail A handcuffed Stephen McKinney being led from the steps of Omagh Courthouse after he was charged with the murder of his wife. He denies the charge.

A 41-YEAR-old former Strabane man has been refused bail having been charged with the murder of his wife in April this year, which he 'vehemently denies'.

Stephen McKinney, who has an address at The Flax Fields, Convoy, Co Donegal, appeared at Omagh Magistrates Court yesterday (Tuesday). During the course of the 15-minute hearing, Judge Bernie Kelly heard the police considered him a flight risk and was worried he could interfere with witnesses if granted bail.

Mother-of-two, Lu Na McKinney, had been on an Easter holiday on a hired cruiser, with her husband and children - a boy aged 13 and a girl aged 11, at Devenish Island, a popular visitor attraction near Enniskillen.

Mrs McKinney was initially believed to have died in a boating accident but a detective inspector told yesterday's court hearing that it was a 'premeditated crime'.

Police carried out a review into the circumstances surrounding the death of the 35-year-old and worked with the Gardai to investigate the matter.

They appealed for anyone with information to contact their officers.

After a review of the circumstances police arrested McKinney on suspicion of murder in Londonderry last Thursday. After a court hearing on Friday night, police were granted a further 36 hours to question the suspect. On Monday detectives charged him with murder.

At yesterday's hearing McKinney was formally charged that between April 12 and April 13, 2017, he murdered Lu Na McKinney, contrary to common law. He was also charged that on April 12 he had possession of a Class C controlled drug, namely Zopiclone. He only spoke to confirm his name and said he understood the charge.

A spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service said the charges had been reviewed by a public prosecutor that morning and she now had an application to amend the date of the first charge to a date unknown between April 11, 2017 and April 14, 2017. Defending barrister, Martin McCann, indicated he had no objection.

Bail The court was told by a police inspector that the prosecution objected to any application for bail due to the serious and premeditated nature of the crime, a concern about further offending as well as on the grounds that he posed a flight risk.

He added while the accused had an address in Convoy in the Republic of Ireland where his two children attended school, he was also believed to have money and property in China, had lived there for a time and last visited that country in October, 2017.

The Inspector also claimed McKinney had access to funds via accounts in banks, a credit union, PayPal and an App which could facilitate a flight from the jurisdiction.

In relation to the couple's children, the inspector said McKinney had given them his permission to speak to the police. However, he said that so far, they were refusing to do so. The inspector said that in interviews, people had said they had a genuine fear about what Mr McKinney might do, if released.

"It is believed he could continue to exert influence on them," he said.

He added the children were currently residing with their grandparents in Strabane.

Under cross-examination Mr McCann said the initial request to speak to the children was in the aftermath of their mother's death and agreed his client had advised them to speak to the police.

Denied "It appears there was police contact with at least one of the children recently during the time he (McKinney) was in custody and that child expressed the view during the visit of the police they did not want to talk about the matter," said Mr McCann, who added his client vehemently denied the murder allegation adding this was an accident and was treated as one until recently.

The inspector said that so far the children had refused to engage and that was the position at this time.

Mr McCann pointed out that the children had continued to go to school and their grandparents had not expressed any concern about their well being.

The inspector was asked about McKinney's passport and said he wasn't aware that the accused had surrendered it, but did agreed if he had it would be a barrier to him going to China.

The inspector also said he knew the accused's parents had indicated that they were willing to allow him stay in their home in Strabane if necessary.

Mr McCann put it that after their several days of questioning of the accused, there was nothing about his conduct that objectively suggested to police that he had intended to avoid police or avoid communicating with them or the justice system.

The inspector said that was correct.

Summing up, Mr McCann said there was only what amounted to a theoretical and technical case against his client, one which experts would adjudicate on and the accused would not be able to interfere.

Refusing the bail application, Judge Kelly said she was concerned about interference with witnesses and the flight risk. She said as far as she knew, there were no arrangements for a European arrest warrant being valid in China and the surrendering of his passport did not get around that issue. She adjourned the matter until Monday next, December 11, to Enniskillen Magistrates Court.



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