Northern Ireland

Marion Millican killing: Jury expected to retire on Wednesday

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

A jury in the trial of a man who claimed he accidentally shot his ex-girlfriend while intending to kill himself is to retire on Wednesday.

Fred McClenaghan, 52, of Broad Street, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, has admitted the manslaughter of Marion Millican.

However, he has denied murdering her on 11 March 2011 at the Portstewart launderette where she worked.

On Tuesday, the trial judge said there were three crucial issues in the case.

Mr Justice Treacy told the Antrim Crown Court jury of six men and five women these issues were whether Mr McClenaghan deliberately fired the antique shotgun, or accidentally discharged the weapon, and if and when he did so, was he suffering from diminished responsibility.

The prosecution claims that the father-of-two deliberately shot Ms Millican out of "anger, jealousy and resentment'' because she had ended their relationship after he tried to strangle her.

The prosecution said it was just one of three separate incidents of domestic violence.

His defence argued that he was in a "deep and dark place", and was suffering from a "severe depressive disorder".

The defence said he had been seen by 13 professionals about his "anxieties, problems, difficulties and suicidal intentions''.

However, the judge said while most of the evidence was not in dispute, Mr McClenaghan had chosen not to give evidence, as was his right, to "undermine, explain or contradict the evidence of the prosecution".

Marion Millican could not give evidence, because she is dead, said the judge.

Forensic evidence

He told the jury they may ask "why" they had no explanation for the "absence from the witness box" of a man who claimed he shot a loved one by accident.

Repeatedly reminding the jury it was a matter for them what inference, if any, they may properly draw from this, Mr Justice Treacy suggested that Mr McClenaghan may not have an answer to the case against him, or one that would stand up to cross-examination.

The judge said the jury should also consider Mr McClenaghan's guilty plea to manslaughter at the start of his trial, a plea rejected by the prosecution who say it is "murder pure and simple".

The judge asked what the plea said about his claim the shooting was an accident, because if it were an accident "he would not be guilty of anything".

With regard to the forensic evidence on the shotgun, the judge said while there was no objective or scientific evidence that Ms Millican was holding the shotgun during a struggle, if any, he was taking the unusual step by warning the jury to "exercise extreme caution" before acting on the forensic evidence, which they might feel unreliable in a number of material respects.

Later, the judge added that the sequence of tests on the shotgun by forensic experts was not only in contravention of recognised international standards, but also went against their own laboratory protocols.

In the circumstances he was directing them, ordering them, that as far as their measurements on the trigger pressure required to fire the shotgun were concerned, they were "not accurate or reliable".