Lu Na McKinney: Murder trial hears that husband blamed himself for not saving wife

By Julian Fowler
South West Reporter, BBC News NI

  • Published
Boat on Lough ErneImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Lu Na McKinney drowned during a family boating holiday on Lough Erne

A man accused of drowning his wife during a boating holiday on Lough Erne told police he blamed himself for not saving her.

Stephen McKinney, 43, of Castletown Square in Fintona, County Tyrone, denies murdering Lu Na McKinney.

He claims the 35-year-old drowned in a tragic accident at Devenish Island after hiring a cruiser in April 2017.

The court heard from two police officers who accompanied Mr McKinney and his two children to hospital.

One officer said Mr McKinney appeared sombre, upset and emotional and had been concerned for his wife, asking about her condition.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Stephen McKinney denies murdering his wife Lu Na McKinney

He recorded what Mr McKinney said in his notebook immediately after speaking to him.

He said Mr McKinney told him: "I tried my best to save her. She can't swim. I heard a splash and I heard 'help' and I jumped in.

"I had hold of her and the boat and she kept pulling me down.

"I tried my best. I'm not a good swimmer, that's why my children are learning to swim."

After being told his wife had died the officer saw Mr McKinney in the smoking area outside A&E and they had another conversation.

He said Mr McKinney told him: "I'm supposed to be a man and be there and save her.

"I don't want to go into there and speak to the children but I have to be a man.

"I jumped in and had hold of the boat and tried my best to save her.

"If only she was wearing a life jacket- there's only two on the boat and they were in with the children in case the boat sank.

"They were supposed to throw two more over and they didn't.

"The boat was tied. If only she was wearing a life jacket.

"I should have saved her."

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Lu Na McKinney died after entering the water at Devenish Island

The officer said Mr McKinney was emotional and, at one stage during their conversation, he was crying.

A second officer said he was with Mr McKinney when a doctor informed him that despite doing everything possible to resuscitate his wife she had died.

He said Mr McKinney remained calm and fairly subdued, and didn't shout or break down in tears.

The officer recalled: "I think he said, 'I knew it. How am I going to tell the children?'"

'I heard a shout'

He said Mr McKinney was taken to see his wife and spent "a very short time" with her and he did not observe any tears or high emotion.

He then spoke to Mr McKinney and thought their conversation was "significant", recording it in his notebook a few moments afterwards.

He said Mr McKinney told him they were having a quiet evening on the boat playing Monopoly and drinking a few beers.

He told the officer: "She said the boat was moving. I said it wasn't but she's very fussy and she argued with me.

"Then she went out. I heard a shout. I went to help. How am I going to tell the children?"

He said Mr McKinney had seemed anxious to go back to Convoy in County Donegal very quickly but agreed with a defence lawyer that he wanted to get home with his children.

The trial also heard from a police officer who spoke to Mr McKinney on board the cruiser.

He asked him for the keys to the boat but Mr McKinney didn't answer.

He described him as erratic, emotional and unable to follow basic instructions.

At other times, he said his mood swung and he was concerned for the safety of his wife and children.

The trial continues.