Northern Ireland

Marion Millican killing: Fatal shots 'could not have been accidental'

Marion Millican
Image caption Fred McClenaghan has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Marion Millican

A shotgun used to kill a mother of four could not have been accidentally fired during a struggle, an expert witness has told a court.

Fred McClenaghan, 52, of Broad Street, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, is accused of murdering Marion Millican at a Portstewart launderette in 2011.

He denies murder.

The forensics expert said she tested the 100-year-old, double barrelled shotgun in a number of scenarios and found the trigger "functional".

The court heard that during testing at the Northern Ireland forensic science laboratory, she dropped the shotgun onto its butt from three different heights, ranging from 15 centimetres to 45 centimetres, to see if would accidentally fire.

"From these three depths there was no discharge. The hammers remained in the cocked position,'' she said.

She said that she also used a wooden mallet to hit the cocked hammers to see if it would make them move.

"The hammers remained in the cocked position,'' she said.

Hammers 'stayed cocked'

The witness also told the jury that she attached a metal line to the trigger mechanism and suspended weights from the rod to see which weight would release the cocked hammers.

"I found that the weight required for the trigger mechanism to initiate the hammer was a weight of four-and-a-half pounds on the right barrel and a weight of five-and-a-half pounds on the left barrel.''

She said that she also carried out what she described as a "belt and braces test'' to see if the gun could be discharged during a struggle.

"It was part of an ad hoc exercise to see if the barrels could be reached from a certain distance during an alleged struggle," she said.

"The gun was held at waist height by my colleague, shooting from his hip.''

She said that the gun was not fired during the re-enactment of the struggle and "the hammers remained cocked back''.

She added that it was her view that the gun could have not been discharged accidentally during a struggle and the only way the rounds could be fired was by pulling the trigger.

The forensics expert said that she also test-fired the shotgun at various distances of range, from close up to further away, to ascertain the extent of the impact on a target caused by a shotgun cartridge.

She added that she did this after examining the deceased's clothing and also post mortem pictures to see if the shotgun round had left any residue or black markings on her body or outer clothing.

"My professional opinion was that the gun was fired at no more than three feet from the target but was more likely to have been fired at from one to two feet,'' the expert told the jury.

"There was no evidence to support the view that there was very close contact between the gun and the victim.''

The witness added that she found nothing to support the view that "the deceased was holding the barrels at the time the gun was discharged''.

At hearing.