The jury in the trial of a 52-year-old Co Londonderry man who claims he accidentally shot his former girlfriend while intending to kill himself will retire on Wednesday afternoon to consider their verdict.
Fred McClenaghan, from Broad Street, Magherafelt, admits the manslaughter of Marion Millican, but denies murdering the mum of four on March 11, 2011 at the Portstewart launderette where she worked.
On Tuesday trial judge Mr Justice Treacy told the Antrim Crown Court jury of six men and five women, sitting in Belfast, there were three cruical issues in the case.
Whether McClenaghan deliberately fired the antique shotgun, or accidently discharged the weapon, and if and when he did so, was he suffering from deminished responsibility.
The prosecution claim that the dad of two deliberately shot Ms Millican dead out of “anger, jealousy and resentment” after she had ended their relationship the previous Christmas when he tried to strangle her, just one of three seperate incidents of domestice violence.
His defence in turn argue that he was in a “deep and dark place”, and was suffering from a “severe depressive disorder” who had been seen by 13 professional people about his “anxieties, problems, difficulties and suicidal intentions”.
However, Mr Justice Treacy said while most of the evidence was not in dispute, McClenaghan had chosen not to give evidence, as was his right, to “undermine, explain or contridict the evidence of the prosecution”.
Marion Millican could not give evidence, because she is dead, said the judge who told the jury they may ask “why” they had no explanation for the “absence from the witness box” from a man who claims 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 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 McClenaghan’s guilty plea to manslaughter at the start of his trial, a plea rejected by the prosecuiton because they say “it’s murder pure and simple”.
Mr Justice Treacy said what did the plea say 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 stuggle, if any, he was taking the unusal step by warning the jury to “exercise extreme caution” before acting on the forensic evidence, which they may feel unreliable in a number of material respects.
Later Mr Justice Treacy added that the sequence of tests on the shotgun by the forensic experts was not only in controvention of recognised international standards, but also went against their own laboratory protocolls.
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”.