A judge acknowledged the deep hurt that the family of Marion Millican has suffered at the hands of killer Fred McClenaghan.
From Broad Street, Magherafelt, McClenaghan, twice unanimously convicted and jailed for life for blasting his former lover with an antique shotgun, was given the same minimum term of 16 years jail for the murder of 51-year-old mother-of-four Marion Millican.
When first sentenced in September 2012 the original trial Judge Corinne Philpott QC also imposed the same minimum term, telling McClenaghan it would be up to the Parole Commissioners to decide if and when he should be freed back into society.
McClenaghan was arrested within hours of the laundrette shooting on March 11, 2011, and has now spent the last three years and nine months in jail.
Mrs Millican’s daughter, Suzanne Davis, said the family were “very disappointed” in the sentence as they left Belfast’s Laganside courthouse.
When McClenaghan was originally sentenced in 2012, Ms Davis had also said that: “As a family we feel the sentence was very lenient, especially for such a crime, such a violent crime, that has been committed. Sixteen years is definitely not enough.”
In his sentencing remarks Mr Justice Treacy told Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast , that he had “carefully read and considered these moving personal accounts which bear testimony to the love and affection of the Millican family and the irreversable and devasting loss caused by the murder of Marion”.
Mr Justice Treacy said he had taken all these reports into account, as well as the medical evidence on McClenaghan’s depressive illness and the submissions from prosecution and defence in reaching the appropriate tariff.
However, while he said the “present case does not easily fall into the specific categories identified in the (sentencing) guideline,” it was his judgement McClenaghan’s “culpability is high and Mrs Millican was vulnerable and completely defencless”.
Mr Justice Treacy continued: “She was taken by surprise at her place of work and immediately confronted by the armed defendant.
“She had no means of escape and was subjected to a terrifying ordeal which involved the initial discharge of the weapon, designed to terrify and subdue her and her work colleague.
“The severe injury to her chest, caused by the second shotgun discharge, was responsible for her death”.
Earlier, Mr Justice Treacy had also commented that “despite his claim that he had, by accident, killed the woman he professed to love, he made no effort whatsoever to call an ambulance or the emergency services.”
As in the previous trial, the judge said that McClenaghan had been unanimously convicted by a jury of the murder
of Mrs Millican.
By their verdict, he added, they had “rejected the defence of accident, or that the defendant’s responsibility was deminished by an abnormality of mind.
“The jury has found that the defendant was fully responsible for the deliberate and intentional shooting of the deceased”.
Although McClenaghan had refused to give evidence on his own defence, during either of his two trials, he always claimed that what occured was a “horrible accident”, and that he had meant to commit suicide in front of Mrs Millican.
He and Mrs Millican had parted just months earlier, around Christmas 2010, following, what Mr Justice Treacy termed as “episodes of serious violence”.
“This included an incident when she was rendered unconscious by a blow from the defendant, and another when he strangled her. It was this last incident which precipitated the end of the relationship”.
However, while Mrs Millican began to rekindle her relationship with her estranged husband Ken, and was “on the threshold of resuming their marriage”, McClenaghan was telling councillors that his “plan is to kill my girlfriend and then myself”.
During his first trial, it was also reported that McClenaghan had also said that if he could not have Mrs Millican, then no-one would.
When questioned by police McClenaghan had remained mostly silent, and it was up to his solicitor to read a prepared statement into the interview notes.
In it McClenaghan maintained it was his “intention to kill myself.... and that Marion would witness my suicide. I did not intended to kill Marion. I did not intend to harm Marion. Marion’s death was accidental. I am truly sorry”.
However, the presecution in their case, and accepted by the jury, said in final submissons before sentencing, that what happened was “murder, pure and simple”.
“This murder was motivated by anger, resentment and jealousy,’’ prosecutor Neil Connor said, before adding:
“This was not a quarrel. This was not an argument. This was an attack. It was a cold and calculated murder.’’
Defence counsel John McCrudden QC, in his submissions said that McClenaghan, in wanting to express his remorse to the family of Marion Millican, “he knows he bares the full responsibility for her death’’.
“There is nothing that can be said that can bring her back.’’
However, he added that McClenaghan maintained that the gun went off accidentally during a struggle following a “quarrel’’ in the launderette, at a time when his client was suffering from a “severe’’ mental health disorder.
He said McClenaghan had sought help for his “suicidal’’ ideas and thoughts, and should have been referred to a consultant psychiatrist for examination, but was not.
Mr McCrudden claimed had there been a co-ordinated effort between the PSNI and the health agencies “we would not be talking about a murder and Mrs Millican would be alive today’’.