Minimum 20 years in prison for man who murdered wife at Fermanagh beauty spot

Minimum 20 years in prison for man who murdered wife at Fermanagh beauty spot

A TYRONE man who murdered his wife and claimed it was an accident has been jailed for at least 20 years.

Stephen McKinney, 45, originally from Strabane, denied murdering his wife Lu Na McKinney during a 2017 boating trip to Lough Erne in Fermanagh to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

However he was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday, having been found guilty of murder in July.

"Today my thoughts are very much with Lu Na's children and her family whose suffering and loss will live with them for the rest of their lives," said Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan from the PSNI's Major Investigation Team.

Holiday treat

The couple and their two children travelled from their home in Convoy, Donegal to Lough Erne in April 2017.

They hired a cruiser for a three-night break over the Easter holidays as a treat for their children and to celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary.

The family moored on the secluded west side of Devenish Island, where the couple spent the evening drinking beers and playing Monopoly with their children.

McKinney claimed his wife — who could not swim — got up during the night to check the mooring because she thought the boat was moving.

He said that she slipped and fell into the water, despite conditions being good and the water calm that night.

McKinney said he jumped in to rescue her but unable to do so, he called 999.

Upon arrival, emergency services easily spotted his wife’s body in the water near the cruiser.

She was recovered from the water but despite attempts to resuscitate her, she had passed away.

Despite McKinney's claims, police found inconsistencies in his account and he was later charged with her murder.

'Police spoke for Lu Na’

"On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Stephen McKinney took his family on a boating trip on Lough Erne — Lu Na would never return alive," said DS Corrigan.

"Her children would return without their mother.

"Following a '999' call from Stephen McKinney stating his wife had fallen into the water and he could not find her, a thorough police investigation ensued.

"Through the dedication and tenacity of the investigating officers, along with the testimonies of expert witnesses who used ground breaking techniques, and working closely with our partners in the Public Prosecution Service, Stephen McKinney was found guilty of the murder of his wife and sentenced today.

"I know today's sentencing will never bring Lu Na back, however I hope this outcome brings some sort of comfort to her family.

"Stephen McKinney thought he had silenced Lu Na, he hadn't — police spoke for her and found justice."

'We will miss her forever'

In a statement, the family of Lu Na — who was originally from China — said their daughter had been "cruelly" taken from them.

"As a family, we have endured four very difficult years, made more difficult living so far away from the investigation and trial," read the statement.

"We are thankful that Lu Na had so many people fighting for her.

"We appreciate the dedication that was shown by the investigation team who worked on this case and provided our family with detailed updates as the case progressed.

"The outcome of this court process has brought us some justice, it does not change the fact that Lu Na was so cruelly taken from us and we will never be able to see her, talk to her or for Lu Na to be part of our family celebrations.

"We will never get over our loss. We all love Lu Na and will miss her forever."