A policeman from Wilmslow convicted of murdering his own wife has been jailed.
Darren McKie was today, Tuesday 27 March, sentenced to life in prison - he must serve a minimum of 19 years.
During the sentencing hearing at Chester Crown Court the Judge, His Honour Mr Justice Robin Spencer, praised Cheshire Police for their ‘exceptionally thorough and painstaking investigation’.
McKie was convicted of the murder of Leanne McKie on Friday 23 March following a 13 day trial at Chester Crown Court. The 39-year-old was found dead at Poynton Lake in the early hours of Friday 29 September 2017.
McKie, 44, who worked as a uniformed Inspector for Greater Manchester Police, had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the day he was due to give evidence. But the jury rejected this and chose to convict him of murder.
McKie and his wife Leanne, who worked as a Detective Constable for Greater Manchester Police, lived on Burford Close in Wilmslow with their three young children.
They had a healthy income and, although the couple had previously had financial difficulties, Leanne was under the impression that they had been resolved.
McKie had even reassured Leanne that there were no problems just weeks before her death. But, unbeknown to her, her husband had been hiding the extent of their debt and had even been making loan applications in her name.
The court heard that the day of Leanne’s death - Thursday 28 September - began the same as any normal day. McKie had gone to work at 6.20am and Leanne was looking after the children, dropping them off at school and nursery before returning home.
McKie’s lies began to unravel at 11.20am when Leanne signed for a parcel and within it she found the couple’s passports, wage slips, a council tax bill and a letter from a finance company regarding a loan application.
Leanne was unaware of any loan application and immediately sent a text message to McKie calling him a liar and demanded to know what was going on.
McKie responded stating that he was coming home and, just moments later, he left his office in Manchester without explanation.
He arrived home around midday and an argument is believed to have broken out between the pair, during which he strangled Leanne.
Just moments after killing his wife, McKie contacted a surveyor who was due to be attending his home at 1pm, to see if he could move the appointment back to 2pm.
After agreeing on a time of 1.30pm, McKie then attempted to cover up his tracks, moving Leanne’s red mini to a nearby road, to make it appear that she wasn’t at home.
At approximately 1pm the chartered surveyor arrived early to carry out the survey. There was no-one at the address at the time, so he waited patiently outside.
Just 10 minutes later McKie returned home on foot after moving Leanne’s car. Leanne was nowhere to be seen but, significantly at the same time as he entered the address, Leanne’s mobile phone connected to their wi-fi network for the very last time. The surveyor left the address a short time later.
From there McKie continued his day as normal, collecting the children from school and taking them to various activities before putting his eldest son to bed shortly after 9pm.
Just hours later, at 11.29pm, Leanne’s car triggered ANPR cameras in Mobberley, near to the location where McKie dumped her mobile phone. Shortly after midnight on Friday 29 October the car was again caught by ANPR, this time in Poynton, near to the lake where Leanne’s body was later found.
The next sighting of McKie was at 1.30am when he was stopped by police on Adlington Road walking towards Wilmslow. When spoken to he told officers he was fine, and claimed that he was walking home and pointed at a nearby address – which was in fact more than two miles from where he actually lived.
Almost an hour later the same officers spotted McKie again, this time on Moor Lane, where he was walking without any shoes on. They were concerned about him and took him home; where they discovered that the couple’s three children had been left alone.
When questioned as to why the children had been left alone McKie claimed that he had been out looking for Leanne as she hadn’t returned home from work.
After speaking to McKie the officers were confident that he did not pose a risk to his children, so they left the property to carry out further enquiries as Leanne had still not returned home.
They searched the area near to where Darren was first seen walking to see if Leanne’s car was nearby; they also carried out further enquiries in the area.
Concerned about McKie’s demeanour, the officers then returned to a nearby police station to seek advice from their supervisor.
At 3.45am Cheshire Police was contacted by a member of the public who had seen a body floating in Poynton Lake. The body was later identified as Leanne’s and a post mortem concluded that she died as a result of strangulation.
McKie was arrested shortly after the discovery and an investigation was launched by the force’s Major Investigation Team. A dedicated team of detectives spent months piecing together all of the evidence.
During the investigation officers uncovered a vast amount of evidence linking McKie to Leanne’s death. This included McKie’s shoes, which were found in a wheelie bin on Moor Lane and contained traces of Leanne’s blood, as well as soil, which matched samples taken at Poynton Lake, where Leanne was found.
The team also uncovered financial evidence, which showed that McKie had been applying for multiple loans and credit cards on his work computer without Leanne’s knowledge. At the time of her death the couple’s debt totalled more than £100,000 on top of their £300,000 mortgage.
The debt meant that their monthly outgoings were £3,850, leaving only £83 to cover supermarket shopping and fuel, which averaged at £1,128 a month.
Detective Inspector Adam Waller said: “This has been a complex and challenging investigation and while I am pleased with the verdict reached by the jury, there is no escaping the tragedy in this case.
"Three young children have lost their mother in the most heartbreaking of circumstances and the investigation has never lost sight of the importance of establishing the truth for them.
“Darren McKie clearly thought he could get away with murdering his own wife – and used the knowledge gained as a police officer to try and systematically cover his tracks and dispose of evidence, with the aim of creating the impression that his wife had been murdered by someone else.
“He is a coward and refused to admit responsibility for his actions throughout the five month investigation, instead subjecting the whole family to the ordeal of a trial. It was only when he was due to give his own evidence in court that he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter, but then refused to give any explanation as to what had taken place. Meaning that the family will never know the full details of what happened that day.
“Thankfully, the case presented in court against him was overwhelming and left the jury with no option but to find him guilty of murder. As a result of today’s verdict his children have to face the prospect of not only dealing with the death of their mother, but now spending the rest of their childhood without their father in their lives also.”
He added: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to Leanne’s family. They have shown a lot of courage and dignity throughout the investigation and the trial and this has been a very difficult experience for them. I hope that they can now in some way start to rebuild their lives after going through so much pain and grief.”
Following the conclusion of the case on Friday 23 March Leanne’s parents, Ellen and Ray Dodd, said: “Justice has been served today. Our lives will never be the same again. There are no winners in this trial. We have lost our beautiful daughter and our grandchildren have lost their beloved mummy.
“We would like to thank our family and friends for their love and support they have given us through these tragic times. Also Leanne’s friends and her colleagues from work for all their kind words.
“We cannot thank Cheshire Police enough for all their hard work and dedication. Last of all we would like to thank our two liaison officers for their professionalism and guidance through these last six months we are so grateful.”
Rachael Barber, Senior Crown Prosecutor rom the CPS, said: “This case is a tragedy for everyone involved. Darren McKie went behind his wife’s back to apply for loans in her name and when she confronted him, he murdered her.
“Having admitted killing his wife during the trial, McKie stated he had not intended to cause her really serious harm or take her life. The weight of evidence showed this to be another lie and the jury convicted him of murder.
“Leanne was clearly a wonderful mother, daughter, friend and colleague.
“His actions have deprived three children of their mother and our thoughts are with her family at this time.”