Self-confessed killer, Fred McClenaghan the 52-year-old county Londonderry man who claims he accidently shot his former lover while intending to commit suicide in front of her, today (Wednesday) went on trial for murder.
On Tuesday, McClenaghan, from Broad Street, in Magherafelt, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 51-year-old Coleraine mum of four, Marion Millican, as she sat having lunch with a friend in the Portstewart laundrette where they both worked.
However on Wednesday, the Antrim Crown Court jury of eight women and four men, sitting in Belfast, heard the prosecution did not accept his unlawful killing plea, as the shotgun shooting on March 11, 2011 was no accident, but “murder pure and simple”.
Trial judge Mr Justice Treacy told the jury he was “asked to make it clear to you that the prosecution do not accept the plea to manslaughter and this trial is continuing on the single count, which is one of murder”.
In his opening, Crown lawyer Neil Connor said it was the prosecution case “that the accused was motivated by his anger at Marion Millican ending their relationship.
“That he equipped himself with that shotgun, went to her place of work, and in a frame of mind, informed only by his anger at her, caused by her rejection of him, and his treatment of her, deliberately shot her, killing her.
“We say this is murder, pure and simple,” said Mr Connor.
The court also heard that during police interviews, McClenaghan remained mostly silent, although his solicitor did hand in a prepared statement which was read to detectives.
In the statement, the accused claimed he planned to commit suicide in front of Mrs Millican and that her shotgun shooting was an accident.
“It was my intention to kill myself ...and that Marion would witness my suicide”.
The statement further alleged that he “did not intend to harm Marion...Marion’s death was accidental, and I am truly sorry”.
However, Mr Connor said that forensic examination of various items forming part of the case, “we say, gives the lie to this death having resulted from an accident.
“The prosecution say the death of the deceased was occasioned by an intended deliberarte act”.
The court also learned that in the months before her death, Mrs Millican was warned by police of a death threat from McClenaghan, after he told counsellors of his intended suicide, and of his plan, ”to kill my girlfriend and then myself”.
After spliting from her husband Ken in September 2009, Mrs Milligan formed a relationship with McClenaghan, but one described as peppered with “episodes of violence”.
Mr Connor revealed that a number of witnesses would give evidence of what Mrs Millican had told them about this, while others would tell of what they had “observed on Mrs Millican’s body”.
Eventually the couple split in December 2010, and in the short months prior to her death, it appeared that she and her husband began seeing each other again and “were on the path of reconciliation and a resumption of their marriage”.
On the day of the shooting McClenaghan was captured on CCTV entering the laundrette armed with a shotgun. He went to the kitchen where he confronted Mrs Millican and her friend Pamela Henry.
Grabbing Marion, he demanded she come with him to talk, but she refused, fearing she would be “bundled into a car”.
At this point McClenaghan fired one shot into the ground between Marion and her workmate, who ran and locked herself in the toilet before making her escape and raising the alarm.
Meanwhile Marion and McClenaghan struggled over the shotgun. He later told the sister of another former girlfriend that he had “shot a girl in Portstewart” during which he’d also fired a shot in the air.
He also said while holding the gun, Mrs Millican grabbed it and they both struggled, falling to the floor, before getting up again, “still struggling” over the weapon.
McClenaghan said as they struggled he told Mrs Millican “to let go of the gun, but she didn’t ... the gun then went off”.
Meanwhile back at the promenade laundrette, a Mrs Gillian Johnston, out walking her dog, decided to call in to see her friends, Mrs Millican and fellow worker, Pamela Henry. Seeing no one in ths shop she shouted out, then “saw the body lying on the floor and saw blood”.
Summoning help, she returned, with Mrs Henry’s husband. Also at the scene was Mr Millican, and later police and paramedics.
“It was clear,” said Mr Connor, “that Mrs Millican was dead, and had sustained a significant chest wound”.
The trial, which is expected to last at least a month continues.