The trial of an inspector accused of murdering his police officer wife will continue at Chester Crown Court today.
Darren McKie, 44, is charged with murdering wife Leanne McKie, 39, whose body was found in a lake in Poynton Park, Cheshire, in September last year.
The father-of-three denies the charge.
In January, the officer appeared at the same court via video-link to enter not guilty pleas to one count of murder and another of manslaughter.
He is accused of the murder of Leanne McKie, who worked as a detective constable in the serious sexual offences unit at Greater Manchester Police.
Mrs McKie was found dead in a lake in Poynton Park, Cheshire, in the early hours of September 29.
Her husband, who worked for GMP as an inspector, was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with her murder at their home in Burford Close, Wilmslow, Cheshire.
John Scheerhout will be reporting live from Chester Crown Court.
Prosecutor finishes closing speech - defence due to start tomorrow
The prosecutor finishes his closing speech.
The judge sends the jury home for the day.
Trevor Burke QC, defending, will start his closing speech in the morning.
Prosecution lists 'lies' Inspector McKie is said to have told police
The jurors are told that the defendant had lied and told ‘absolute whoppers’ during his police interview.
Mr Power said:
He told a number of lies, huge lies, absolute whoppers designed to frustrate the police and designed to carry on with the cover up.
The barrister then listed eleven lies the defendant is said to have told police.
1. That his wife knew the surveyor was coming
2. That he got home between 12.30pm and 1pm.
3. That he went out at midnight rather than 10.30pm
4. That he turned left on Arlington Way after leaving his home rather than right towards the car.
5. He said he was ‘panicking’ about his missing wife.
6. He said he washed his clothes because of work commitments.
7. He said a text message he had received from his wife while at work had suggested everything was normal.
8. He said no-one was at home when he got home because Leanne didn’t want to be there for the visit of the surveyor.
9. He said he was getting on alright with Leanne and there were no issues.
10. He said the couple had jointly applied for a second mortgage.
11. He said he left his phone at home when he went out to look for his wife because it needed charging rather than leaving ‘cell site’ evidence.
Barrister timed a minute in complete silence to demonstrate ‘utterly compelling evidence’ of strangulation
Mr Power tells the jurors that the Crown’s case is that the defendant’s action after the killing showed a ‘conscious, calculating and serious steps to cover his tracks’.
The barrister continued: “He was someone able and determined to carry out whatever he wanted to carry out.”
The evidence from the pathologists about the strangulation was ‘utterly compelling evidence’, he added.
The injury had suggested ‘prolonged force’, said Mr Power, reminding the jury the pathologist had said it would have taken at least a minute to strangle Leanne McKie.
The barrister asked: “If you did it for so long, would you be able to feel the life literally ebbing away from the person you are strangling?”
He continued: “Let’s see how long a minute might feel. Imagine during that minute the defendant with his one hand over his wife’s mouth and throughout that time exerting a significant degree of pressure or significant force.”
The barrister then timed a minute during which there was complete silence in court two.
Prosecution barrister outlines assessment jury needs to make
The pathologist had said the bruising found to Leanne McKie’s mouth had suggested pressure had been applied to her mouth, the jurors are told.
Mr Power suggested the defendant had put his hands over his wife’s mouth to prevent the neighbours from hearing anything.
“Just how loud was she screaming for that to be necessary?” asked Mr Power.
He continued: “That’s a vital aspect of the evidence: your assessment of whether the defendant was acting in a determined pursuit of causing at least bodily harm or whether your intention was was only to cause minor harm that went tragically wrong.”
Day ten - Prosecution closing speeches
Nigel Power QC, prosecuting, is in the middle of his closing speech here at Chester Crown Court.
The barrister reminds the jurors of the evidence of the pathologist Dr Rodgers, who Mr Power described as an ‘assured and reliable witness’.
The jurors are reminded that pathologist described bruising to the neck and ‘two significant fractures’ of bones in the neck.
The pathologists had said the first fractured bone was a ‘typical’ injury you would see with a compression of the neck, the jurors are told.
The second bone had ‘cracked completely’, according to Dr Rodgers.
Dr Rodgers, Mr Power reminds the jury, had said the compression of the neck had been ‘prolonged’ and had lasted at least a minute.
Insp McKie will not be giving evidence
Trevor Burke QC, defending, tells the jury he would be calling no evidence and confirmed his client would not be giving evidence.
On Wednesday the jurors had been told that the defendant would be giving evidence.
The jurors are told that the surprise development brought an end to the evidence they would hear.
The judge, Mr Justice Spencer, told the jurors not to speculate or worry about the development and that they should not be tempted to discuss the case at home.
The jurors are sent home for the day and told to return on Monday when the barristers are due to make their closing speeches.
Judge tells jury they'll still need to consider murder charge
The judge, Mr Justice Spencer, tells the jurors that the defendant had admitted unlawfully killing his wife by his change of plea.
However, he stressed Insp McKie continued to deny murder and the issue for them to decided now was whether he intended to kill or her or cause her serious harm.
BREAKING: Darren McKie admits manslaughter, continues to deny murder
In a surprise development, the defendant Darren McKie has admitted manslaughter although he continues to deny murdering his wife.
He changed his manslaughter plea as the trial resumed this afternoon and the prosecution finished its case.
Insp McKie was asked to stand in the dock and the charge of manslaughter was read out to him again. Asked how he pleaded, he answered: “Guilty.”
The jurors are told by the judge he continues to deny the murder charge.
Trial resumes - jury to be shown CCTV footage
Day nine of the trial is underway here at Chester Crown Court. The public gallery is half full, with some family members present.
The prosecutor Nigel Power QC tells the jury they are about to see a video compilation of CCTV footage including maps. The video is played to the jurors.
Inspector McKie: 'I didn’t kill my wife. I have nothing further to say'
At the conclusion of the defendant’s final police interview, the jurors are told he said:
I didn’t kill my wife. I have nothing further to say.
The jury is sent home and the trial resumes tomorrow.
Inspector McKie: 'I do not recall any contact with her after that text'
The jurors hear that Insp McKie continued in his prepared statement:
I came out of the meeting and I recall sending her a text ‘I’m coming home now’ by which I meant she could leave the house before I got back if she wanted.
She replied ‘I’m scared now’ or something similar which I took to mean that she was worried about the debt and was not suggesting she was scared of me.
I do not recall any contact with her after that text.
The only thing I wish to add is that in the past when we have rowed and she had flown off the handle, she just said to me ‘you do the right thing in leaving me alone’.
Leanne McKie 'wasn't aware of loan until day she was allegedly killed'
Insp McKie said he was in a meeting at Stretford police station when his wife sent him an angry text accusing him of being a ‘liar’ over a £54,000 loan application.
The prosecution say Leanne McKie wasn’t aware of the application until - on the day she was allegedly killed - she received a parcel returning the couple’s passports which had been used to make the application.
In his prepared statement, Insp McKie went on:
I don’t know why she said ‘liar’. I was in a meeting when I got the texts so I could not respond. I think she then tried to call me several times. I was in a meeting and although I could have answered I chose not to as I knew exactly what she would be like and I have learned to ignore her when she was in one of her moods.
I know that her seeing the passports and the loan application in black and white would be her having to deal with the debt head-on and would result in her behaviour as I have described as it meant she could not put it out of her mind.
Prepared statement from Inspector Mckie is read to the court
The jurors hear about a second prepared statement which was handed to the interviewing officers on October 1 last year.
Insp McKie said in this statement:
I would describe Leanne as someone who would have irrational worries. By this I mean she would worry about a minor thing disproportionately or where there was no need to worry.
I would describe her as someone who would fly off the handle easily and regularly.
I have learnt over 13 years of marriage that the best way of dealing with this is just to ignore her and let her burn herself out.
Insp McKie said he didn't even know Poynton had a lake
In the prepared statement, Insp McKie said he had never been to Poynton Lake ‘to the best of my knowledge’ and that he didn’t know it had a lake.
He said he didn’t know Tern Drive and did not know Poynton at all.
The family’s debt was ‘solely in relation to the house’ and they were were in the processing of ‘consolidating’ their debt, he said in the statement.
He said both his and Leanne’s cars were purchased with finance agreements and that no mortgage they had ever had on any house had ever been in arrears.
Insp McKie said they had no life assurance policies, that he earned £51,000 per year and his wife, who worked part-time, brought in £16,500 every year.
He said he could not account for the ‘hits’ his wife’s car made on ANPR cameras.
“I do not know how my wife met her death.”
Ahead of a later interview on September 30, Insp McKie was handed a pre-interview briefing document which outlined the areas to be covered during the interview, the jurors were told.
It included that the post mortem examination had concluded that his wife had died of strangulation/asphyxiation and that her body had been found floating by the edge of the water at Poynton Lake.
The document referred to Leanne McKie’s Mini Countryman car being found in Tern Drive in Poynton and that her iPhone had been found near Paddock Hill Lane.
It said Insp McKie would be shown pictures of the trainers found in the bin and that he would be asked questions about his financial circumstances and three ‘hits’ his wife’s Mini Countryman is said to have made on ANPR cameras near Mobberley, Poynton and Wilmslow.
Insp McKie answered ‘no comment’ to most of the questions put to him in the interview but provided a prepared statement in which he said: “I do not know how my wife met her death.”
In a second police interview Insp McKie answered 'no comment'
In a second police interview carried out the same day, this time lasting just 22 minutes, Insp McKie answered ‘no comment’ to questions put to him and he also declined to mark out on a map the route he said he had taken from his home to the A34, the court is told.
Insp McKie told officers in his previous interview he had left home to look for his wife.
Insp McKie is asked why he went to look for his wife
Asked why had gone out to look for his wife, Insp McKie said: “I was worried. I just decided to be proactive and do something.”
Insp McKie says he sent his wife a text at 4.30pm
Insp McKie said ‘people knew’ he was leaving work early on September 28 and that his boss was ‘quite flexible’.
He said nobody else was in the family home when he arrived and he recalled sending his wife a text at 4.30pm saying ‘what’s going on?’
He confirmed his wife, who worked part-time at GMP, would leave for work at 2pm to begin her shift at at 3pm.
“It has happened before but it was unusual not to get a text,” Insp McKie told the interviewing officers.
Insp McKie admitted he had drunk some red wine but said he was in charge of all his faculties.
Asked how much he drank generally, he replied: “I probably drink more than the doctor says I should drink but moving house was quite stressful.”
'The move to Burford Close had been stressful'
Insp McKie told the interviewers he had been a police officer for 13 years and was an inspector based at Stretford police station.
He described two meetings he attended after he arrived at work on September 28 and told the interviewers that ‘nothing major happened’ at work that day.
He said he received a few texts from his wife and also had a few missed calls from her.
Insp McKie described how their home on Burford Close in Wilmslow had been purchased in February of last year.
The family had been living in a rented property nearby and the move to Burford Close had been ‘stressful’, admitted Insp McKie.
He said he 'went to check if knock on door was his wife'
Insp McKie described going to bed later in the evening.
“I went to bed and fell asleep and at some point I was aware of banging on the door,” he said.
He said he went to check whether it was his wife but realised it was police officers.
“Their attitude was different that time,” said Insp McKie.
The trial has previously heard how Leanne McKie’s body was found face down in Poynton Lake at about 3.35am on September 29 and that the officers who had twice stopped Insp McKie then returned to his home.
“I was asking them what was going on and they weren’t replying or telling me,” Insp McKie said during his police interview.
Later he said: “It didn’t really register when they arrested me for murder.”
Insp McKie said he took off his trainers because they were 'rubbing'
Insp McKie described how the officers who stopped him asked him what he was doing but was able to continue on his way home.
He said his heel was ‘rubbing’ and he removed his trainers.
“I don’t know why. I threw them in the bin. I was frustrated with myself and the situation,” he said during the interview.
The officer described being stopped by police a second time that night when they saw him walking along Moor Lane in Wilmslow without shoes on.
Insp McKie said he had been ‘frustrated’ and was ‘annoyed with myself’.
He described being driven home by the police officers and feeling ‘scared’.He said his ‘heart was racing’ because of what he had done and the fact his wife was missing.
'I was panicking then'
Insp Mckie said midnight ‘came and went’ and added: “I was panicking then.” “I just thought I would go and look for her,” he said. He told the interviewer he had had some wine and so he could not drive. He described how he walked to the roundabout and past the high school but ‘didn’t see anything’. He said he ‘carried on walking’ and later turned around and walked back home. Insp McKie admitted he ‘panicked’ when he saw police officers on his return as he had ‘three kids at home’.
Insp McKie repeats that he did not know what happened to her
Insp McKie repeated to the interviewer that he didn’t know what had happened to his wife and did not know the circumstances of her death.
The defendant, asked about his movements the day before his wife was found dead at Poynton Lake, said he had arrived for work at Stretford police station shortly before 7am.
He said he arrived back at home at about 12.30pm or 1pm to show a surveyor, who was valuing the family property, around the home. The surveyor left and he spent the afternoon picking up his children, Insp McKie told the interviewing officer.
During the evening, he said he became concerned his wife, who was working a 3pm to 11pm shift at GMP, had not contacted him. “I was getting worried now. It was unusual,” Insp McKie said during the interview.
'What can you tell me about the death of your wife?'
An audio recording of Insp McKie’s first police interview, which lasted 1hr and 40mins, is being played to the jury.
At the start of the interview, the interviewer Detective Constable Kevin Lee asked the suspect: “What can you tell me about the death of your wife?”
Insp McKie replied: “Nothing, nothing. Until officers arrived at the house this morning, I didn’t know she was dead.”
Day eight starts
The trial has resumed and the jurors are hearing about the police interviews of Darren McKie after his arrest on suspicion of murder.
The court hears the defendant was interviewed on five occasions, the first time on September 29 and then on September 30.
He is said to have exercised his right to silence during the September 30 interview.The jurors hear he was interviewed a second time on September 30 when he handed police a prepared statement.
He was interviewed again on October 1 when he gave officers a second prepared statement and afterwards exercised his right to silence, the court is told.His final interview took place on October 2 when he gave police a third prepared statement and afterwards largely exercised his right to silence, the jurors are told.
Trial adjourned for the day
The jury is sent home for the day and the trial resumes in the morning.
Police officer of similar size to Leanne McKie asked to climb into boot of Mini
DC Cole, prosecutor Nigel Power QC told the jurors, was the ‘unfortunate’ officer who had similar weight and dimensions to Leanne McKie chosen to climb into the boot of a Mini Countryman similar to the one said to have been used to dump the body at Poynton Lake.
The jury has previously heard that Leanne McKie was just over 5ft 2in tall and weighed 53 kilos or eight stone.
DC Cole told the court she was an inch taller and weighed 56 kilos.
The jurors were shown a picture of DC Cole in the boot of the car.
Witness cross-examined over uniform
Under cross-examination Trevor Burke QC asks DC Cole:
Did your enquiries reveal that but for the events that followed that Darren McKie was on duty again at eight o’clock the following morning?
DC Cole answered:
I believe he was, yes.
The witness told the court that she didn’t know whether the uniform found in the wash was Insp McKie’s only uniform although later she recalled there had been ‘additional uniform’.
Clothing found in washing machine by police after body found at lake
The jurors are told about the clothing, including Insp McKie’s police uniform, a police officer found spinning in the washing machine of the family home in Wilmslow when he went to the property during the early hours of September 29 following the discovery of the body at Poynton Lake.
Tommy Hilfiger jeans and polo short, a North Face jacket, a police issue top and dark trousers and socks were found in the washing which was stopped by the officer mid-cycle, the jurors have been told.
Builder contacted Leanne McKie 'over money owed for work'
The jury is told that the builder who was renovating the family home contacted Leanne McKie on September 22 and said he had not been able to reach her husband about what was still owed for the work.
On September 25, the court is told that the builder sent a message to Insp McKie to tell him that £4,291 was still due.
The message was sent on the day Insp McKie had asked his wife for her work log-on and password, the jurors are told.