Last week at Chester Crown Court in England, police inspector Darren McKie was found guilty of his wife’s murder. After 21 years of service in the Greater Manchester police force, 43-year-old McKie turned from a man upholding the law and protecting the public into a callous killer who went to great lengths to conceal his crime.
“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.”
To everyone around them, Darren and Leanne McKie were the perfect couple. At the time of Leanne’s murder, they were living in an expensive four-bedroom house in a sought after neighborhood in Wilmslow, Cheshire. They enjoyed having nice cars, taking expensive holidays abroad, and seemed to be content and comfortable. Behind closed doors, the couple who had been married for 13 years had a history of running up debt to afford their lifestyle according to reports by BBC News.
The house in Wilmslow was a new purchase in February 2017 and as far as 39-year-old Leanne McKie knew it was the start of a new life without the debt they had hanging over them in previous years. They began extensive renovations on the house, however, renting another home nearby while the work was being carried out. Darren McKie earned a good salary in the police force and Leanne worked two days a week, but their spending vastly outweighed their combined income. Darren McKie dealt with the finances and, behind his wife’s back, he was applying for huge amounts of credit in order to pay the builder and bail them out of the near £100,000 they now owed.
Her discovery of his decent and their confrontation on the afternoon 28 September 2017 ended in Leanne McKie being manually strangled with such force that two bones in her neck were broken. The pathologist reported she had been choked for a ‘prolonged period’ of at least a minute causing her death.
The body of Leanne McKie was found lying face down on the bank of Poynton Lake in Cheshire by a passer-by in the early hours of the morning on 29 September 2017. A series of chance events including the discovery of his wife’s body just hours after he had dumped her by the lake, led to Darren McKie’s multiple lies being unraveled and he was arrested for her murder by 5 am that morning.
Leanne McKie had discovered through a letter sent to their home from a financial loans company that her husband had applied for a £54,000 loan using her details and signature to support the application without her knowledge. In 2013, the couple had to be bailed out of impending financial ruin by their parents and she was desperate not to return to such a state. Furious, she began to send him text messages calling him a liar and demanding to know what he was doing. Darren McKie was at work that afternoon and after appearing noticeably distracted by colleagues, he left in the middle of his shift with no explanation to anyone. Leanne McKie was never seen alive again.
After murdering his wife, McKie placed her body in the trunk of her Mini Countryman before picking their children up from school, giving them dinner, and putting them to bed. He then left them alone in the house while he drove the Mini out to Poynton Lake, dragged her body to the edge of the water, and then abandoned her car nearby. At 1 am that morning, two police officers on patrol stopped Darren McKie as he was walking home. After confirming he was simply walking back to his home they let him on his way, having no knowledge of what he had just done. Almost an hour later, the same two police officers spotted McKie again, however, he was no longer wearing his trainers and they realised he was wearing police issue trousers.
McKie told them he was a serving police inspector and had dumped his trainers as they were hurting his feet. In reality, he had disposed of his trainers in a residential wheelie-bin after realising they were stained with his wife’s blood. The officers gave him a lift home where he told them he was concerned about his wife who had not returned home from work that evening. This he told them, is why he was out walking the streets in the early hours of the morning. Across town at the same time, a passer-by, making their own way home after being out drinking, stumbled across the body of Leanne McKie and called the police. Quickly identifying the body along with the strange behaviour of her husband in the previous hours, Darren McKie was arrested for the murder of his wife.
His trainers were found in the bin where he had discarded them on his route home and forensic tests confirmed the presence of his wife’s blood. When interviewed he said he knew nothing about the Poynton area and had never been there. Further forensic analysis on his trainers confirmed the soil traces on the soles of the shoes matched the soil at the lakeside where his wife’s body had been dumped.
When his case came to court on the 5 March 2018, Darren McKie pleaded not guilty to both murder and manslaughter. His statement claimed he had returned home on that afternoon to talk to his wife and after they had argued she had left the house in her Mini and he had not seen her since. The court heard from analysts who testified the couple was spending over £1,000 more per month than they were earning and were in severe financial difficulty.
McKie maintained that he did not have any involvement in his wife’s murder and that someone else was responsible for her death. McKie listened to nine days of testimony and evidence for the prosecution’s case, including prosecution barrister Nigel Power QC timing one minute of silence in front of the jury after telling them, “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,” Manchester Evening News, who covered the trial, reported.
In a surprising move, McKie then changed his manslaughter plea on the eve his defense team was due to present their evidence to the court. Darren McKie continued to deny murder claiming he had no intention of killing his wife, but he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. “For the following six months he kept the darkest, darkest secret, telling his parents and children he was not responsible for the death of their mother,” said McKie’s defense barrister Trevor Burke QC, before telling the jury Leanne McKie’s death ‘was as tragic as it was unexpected’.
“They have to prove that in the minute or so that led to her death Darren wanted rid of her. Dead. Wanted her dead. Intended her dead, and did it with that intention in mind. Brutally cold. Ruthless murder. That’s the prosecution case.”
The jury, however, after hearing all the evidence against him did not believe him and he was convicted of murder.
Detective Superintendent Aaron Duggan, who led the inquiry for Cheshire Police said, “She has three beautiful children who now haven’t got a mother. The fact Darren has put them through this whole trial and kept them waiting for six months for this justice is ultimately the shame. We hope this conviction brings some comfort to his family.”
The McKie’s children will now grow up trying to deal with the murder of their mother by their own father. “There are no winners in this trial,” Leanne McKie’s parents said. “We have lost our beautiful daughter and our grandchildren have lost their beloved mummy.” Darren McKie is due to be sentenced later this month.