Lu Na McKinney: Murder trial hears suspect believed wife was alive

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Lu Na McKinneyImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Lu Na McKinney's lifeless body was pulled from the water by police

A man accused of murdering his wife in County Fermanagh in April 2017 told an RNLI volunteer he believed she was still alive as she was being rushed to hospital, a court has heard.

Forty-three-year-old Stephen McKinney of Castletown Square in Fintona denies murdering Lu Na McKinney in April 2017.

The 35-year-old drowned in Lough Erne during a family boating holiday.

Five RNLI volunteers who responded to a call for help gave evidence at Dungannon Crown Court on Friday.

They each told the court that conditions were clear on the night with a large, if not full, moon making visibility good after they responded to a call at around 01:20.

Three of the men had arrived at the scene in an Atlantic 75 rib boat, the other two on a Rescue Water Craft (RWC) type jet ski.

Each gave their recollections of the rescue attempt and their interactions with Mr McKinney on the night.

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Stephen McKinney denies murdering his wife

Crew member Paul Keown said he helped police remove Lu Na from the water.

He said he had seen Mr McKinney standing at the rear of his hire cruiser wearing an item like a large dressing gown or towel.

He said he assisted with the transfer of Lu Na to Trory jetty on the RNLI boat.

When he returned Mr McKinney and the couple's two children were transferred on the RNLI boat. By this stage Mr McKinney had changed his clothes. Mr Keown said that Mr McKinney had asked him about the condition of Lu Na.

"He said he'd seen her move and thought she was still alive," he said.

Mr Keown told a defence barrister that he had noted Mr McKinney was shaking from head to toe on the RNLI boat.

Adrian Quigley, who drove the RNLI boat to Devenish Island on the night said that as he made his approach he could see what he thought was the casualty in the water. He added that once on the jetty he saw Mr McKinney.

"I got a quick glance of him because we'd been told there were two people in the water. We did see him at the back patio doors of the casualty's vessel.

"I'm nearly certain he was wet but I can't be 100% certain."

Mr Quigley confirmed that he had told police in a statement the week after Lu Na's death that Mr McKinney looked shocked and distressed.

Mark Goodall was the helmsman of the RNLI operation that night. He said that when the team approached the scene "Mr McKinney was standing at the doorway at the back (of his boat) in a sort of dressing gown, it looked sort of brown. He looked wet".

The defence barrister asked: "Did you say he looked like he'd been in the water?"

In response, Mr Goodall said: "Yes."

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Image caption,
Lu Na McKinney drowned during a family boating holiday on Lough Erne

Adrian Kelly drove the Rescue Water Craft. He said from 500 yards away he could see the hire boat and lifeboat at the jetty. When the RNLI boat came back from Trory to collect Mr McKinney and the children Mr Kelly told colleagues that they would have to move quickly.

"He was shaking. I can't say whether it was to do with cold or shock. I couldn't say if he was upset or not."

The defence barrister asked him had he not said Mr McKinney was upset in his police statement?

Mr Kelly replied: "It (the statement) says he was more upset than I'd noticed him the first time (upon arrival at the island)."

Stephen Ingram was also on the RWC. He said he spoke to Mr McKinney on the jetty, adding: "He asked me, 'Do I go with her?' I advised him to stay warm. He asked me were the children ok getting on the lifeboat. I said they were ok.

"The children were quiet. They seemed oblivious."

The trial continues.