Galway born pharmacist on trial for murder of elderly neighbour

A pharmacist from Galway has gone on trial this week accused of the murder of her elderly neighbour, who was found dead in the bedroom of her home in Newry, Co Down on Christmas Day three years ago.

The trial, which began at Belfast Crown Court on Monday, heard how 81-year-old Maire Rankin was allegedly murdered by her next door neighbour and that a cruxifix which hung over Ms Rankin’s bed had been used to beat her around the face. The trial also heard that Ms Rankin had been sexually assaulted after her death.

Galway-born Karen Walsh (45 ), with an address at Dublin Road, Newry and who has business interests in Dublin, denies the murder. The trial heard that Mrs Rankin’s body was found in her bedroom on Christmas Day 2008 and that Ms Walsh admitted going next door with a bottle of vodka and a Christmas card, but she claims she left after half an hour, when Mrs Rankin was in bed.

Opening the case, Liam McCollum told the jury that it appeared that Ms Walsh sat on Mrs Rankin to carry out a sustained assault which left her with serious head injuries and broken ribs. He said that Mrs Rankin’s naked body was found on the bedroom floor, that there were bruises to her face and arms, and a post-mortem revealed signs of a sexual assault. He added that there was strong DNA evidence linking Ms Walsh to the incident and that another neighbour had seen Ms Walsh sitting on a wall on the Dublin Road early on Christmas morning. The jury also heard that there were no signs of forced entry to Mrs Rankin’s home, indicating that she knew her killer.

Answering questions posed by Ms Walsh’s lawyer Peter Irvine on Tuesday, Mrs Rankin’s daughter, Brenda Rankin, said that she was not aware her mother had expressed concerns about a number of burglaries and other incidents in her area shortly before she was killed. It was claimed that Mrs Rankin had been worried about someone calling to her home purporting to be a window cleaner.

The trial continues.

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