The most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to leave.
Yu Na McKinney had decided to leave her husband, Stephen.
She was researching divorce and wanted to bring her two children back to her native China.
However, Stephen McKinney had different plans for his young wife.
Instead he plotted, planned and convinced her to go on a ‘make or break’ family vacation, where he drugged her and drowned her.
McKinney portrayed himself as a loving father and husband, distraught by the death of his wife, he reveled in sympathy and played the expertly grieving widower, a part he had apparently rehearsed.
Devenish Island on Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh is a beautiful, picturesque part of Northern Ireland.
A delightful place for the Easter holiday. McKinney’s children are said to have been excited at the prospect of sleeping on the boat during their school holidays.
Lu Na focused on her children and told her family back in China how well they were doing in their new life in Donegal.
But the brave face she used was hiding the serious problems she faced in her marriage.
Other holiday makers may have originally thought that the husband and wife were the perfect family photo with their two beautiful children hanging out on the calm waters of Lough Erne.
But Lu Na was a prisoner in a controlling relationship.
Off a break to save his failed marriage, McKinney books a boat trip to kill his wife and rob her children of a loving mother.
When Lu Na’s lifeless body was pulled from the water, McKinney claimed she stumbled and fell into the luff and tried to save her.
But his story was full of inconsistencies.
The police were suspicious and based on the statements of the marina staff, expert witnesses, work associates of the deceased and telecommunications evidence, they launched an investigation into the murder.
The level of sleep drugs in her system was well above the recommended dosage.
McKinney protested his innocence and continued to do so, claiming that it was all part of a larger conspiracy against him.
When he was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison on Thursday at Belfast Crown Court, he kept shouting that he was innocent.
His bank accounts were frozen to prevent him from escaping from his jurisdiction during the period of his remand as he was considered a major flight risk.
The original trial was canceled when the pandemic hit.
With its stringent social distancing measures it was found impossible to run such a large and complex trial and the prosecution reluctantly let the jury go before.
It was on the second attempt that the true horrors of Lu Na’s death were first heard in court.
McKinney told police with an address in Castletown Square, Fintona that his wife, who could not swim,mbled in the water in the early hours of the morning.
He claimed that he had voluntarily consumed sleeping pills which he later admitted to buying online.
The jury was told that the 45-year-old had no love for his wife and regularly humiliated her in public.
Prosecutors claimed that McKinney verbally abused Lu Na about their sex life.
Briefly at Dungannon Crown Court, prosecutors said Mr McKinney was “a controlling, manipulative, coercive man who was determined to end his marriage on his own terms, with promiscuous death proposals”. .
Justice Dennis McBride jailed McKinney, who originally told Strauben in Co Tyrone for at least 20 years: “You abused, humiliated and manipulated and controlled him and eventually you killed him.” Took life
“It was such an unnecessary and cruel action. You were someone he should have trusted but you betrayed that position and you ended his life prematurely. ,
The judge considered the fact that their children were sleeping nearby because they had murdered their mother as a serious factor, saying that they were “not present by accident, but by design the defendant had committed the murder.” had sought to use the presence of his children to dispel doubts.
Lu Na, short in stature, a beautiful and tender woman, was no match for McKinney when he threw her into a cold loaf in the silence of the night.
Her grieving family issued a statement after the sentencing, “We will never be able to see her, talk to her or make Lu Na a part of our family celebrations.”
Detective Superintendent Eamon Corrigan of PSNI’s principal investigative team said: “I know today’s sentence will never bring Lu Na back, although I hope this outcome will bring some relief to her family.”
Stephen McKinney’s conviction for the murder of Lu Na coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.
To coincide with that November 25 reflection, Women’s Aid NI launched a 16-day action to raise awareness of key issues of violence against women and girls.
Statistically, migrant women in Northern Ireland are at higher risk of serious domestic abuse and homicide.
Since the murder of Lu Na in 2017, Giselle Marimón-Herrera (37), originally from Colombia, and her 15-year-old daughter Allison were murdered in their Newry home in March 2019 by Russell Steele, who had taken her own life.
Natasha Melendez (32) Venezuela She died a week after a violent attack on her Lisburn home in March 2020.
Poland-born Patrycja Wyrebek was found dead in August 2020 in Bath at her Newry home, a man charged with her murder. Lyudmila Poletelova (61), a Latvian national who was found dead at her home in Limavadi in April this year, has been charged with murder.
There are concerns that isolation from family and friends, language barriers and inability to access services are increasing that risk.
Police respond to domestic abuse incident every 17 minutes in Northern Ireland 11 women have been murdered by a male partner or relative in NI since the lockdown began in March 2020.
The Mahila Sahayata Helpline is available 24 hours a day on 1800 341 900.