Stephen McKinney: Minimum 20 years in prison for Lu Na murder

By Julian Fowler
BBC News NI South-West Reporter

Published
Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Lu Na McKinney's family say they will miss her forever

A "cold, callous" killer who murdered his wife on a family boating holiday in County Fermanagh has been told he must serve a minimum of 20 years in prison.

Stephen McKinney, 45, originally from Strabane in County Tyrone, was sentenced on Thursday after being found guilty of murdering Lu Na McKinney.

The body of 35-year-old mother of two was found in Lough Erne in April 2017.

Her family said the sentence given to her husband brought some justice but they would never get over their loss.

Speaking outside the court in Belfast, Det Supt Eamonn Corrigan of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) described McKinney as a "cold, callous killer… a coward".

"Lu Na's death was a cold-blooded, cruel and calculated murder," he said.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Stephen McKinney claimed his wife had fallen into Lough Erne

The couple and their two young children had moored their boat at a jetty on Devenish Island in Lough Erne during an Easter holiday.

McKinney claimed his wife had fallen into the water after going on deck to check the mooring ropes.

He said he had gone into the water after her, grabbing her at first, but that she slipped from his grip and went underwater.

The prosecution described McKinney as "a controlling, manipulative, coercive man" who had grown tired of his wife.

They said the story he told the police was a lie to cover up a planned, carefully thought-out murder.

In their statement, Mrs McKinney's family thanked the PSNI investigation team and all of those involved in securing a conviction against her killer.

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

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

Media caption,
Lu Na McKinney's death was a cruel and calculated murder, says Eamonn Corrigan

"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 all love Lu Na and will miss her forever."

'Deprived of their mother's love'

Sentencing McKinney, the judge said the killer had left behind a trail of destruction.

"Two young children have been deprived of their mother's love, care and support," she said.

"As a result of your actions you've left the children without parents to care for them and their lives have been irreparably damaged.

"You've also deprived a mother of her only child and caused endless hurt and pain by your cruel and callous actions."

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The McKinney family had been on a boating trip when Lu Na was killed

The judge told McKinney he had committed a cold-blooded murder, which was carefully planned and ruthlessly executed when his wife was entirely defenceless.

She paid tribute to the "dogged detective work" of the investigation team, highlighting in particular the work of one officer who died with Covid-19 before the trial began.

"Had it not been for the thorough, comprehensive and painstaking detective work… the defendant may well have got away with murder," said the judge.

Mr Corrigan of the PSNI praised the "dedication and tenacity" of his officers and the expert witnesses "who used ground-breaking techniques" to help bring the killer to justice.

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

"Stephen McKinney thought he had silenced Lu Na - he hadn't. Police spoke for her and found justice."

While being led away from the court on Thursday, McKinney continued to protest his innocence.

"I'm innocent. I did not do this" he said.

Lynne Carlin, Public Prosecution Service (PPS) assistant director, said Mc Kinney had carefully planned and carried out his wife's murder.

"Every murder causes great distress and pain," Ms Carlin said.

"This case, in which McKinney murdered his wife as their two young children slept aboard the boat, is particularly disturbing."

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