A Galway pharmacist has been sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of her elderly neighbour in Newry three years ago.
Galway-born Karen Walsh (45 ) of Dublin Road, Newry, continued to profess her innocence as she was led away from Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday to begin the sentence handed down for the murder of 81-year-old Maire Rankin who was found dead in the bedroom of her home on Christmas Day 2008.
Ms Walsh attended secondary school in Salthill and took a degree course in biochemistry at NUI Galway. She also took a beautician's course, before getting a degree in pharmacy at Sunderland University.
Her father is a retired principal of a national school in the Loughrea area.
During the lengthy trial the jury heard that a cruxifix which hung over Mrs Rankin’s bed had been used to beat her around the face, and that she had been sexually assaulted after her death. The pensioner’s naked and battered body had been found by a relative on Christmas Day.
Walsh, who has business interests in Dublin, denied the murder, claiming that she had gone next door with a bottle of vodka and a Christmas card but that she had left after half an hour when Mrs Rankin had gone to bed. She told the jury that when she left Mrs Rankin was still alive. She vehemently denied assualting her neighbour, sexually interfering with her, or having an argument with Mrs Rankin.
Earlier in the trial, evidence was given that a DNA profile of Walsh was found on Mrs Rankin’s chin as well as on her body and the cruxifix. Evidence was also given that Mrs Rankin died as result of being beaten around the head and sustaining 15 fractured ribs, coupled with her underlying medical conditions of hypertension and chronic asthma.
After two hours of deliberation on Tuesday the jury returned its verdict and Judge Anthony Hart sentenced Walsh to life in prison. The minimum term to be served before Walsh is eligible for release will be determined at a later date.