Galway-born pharmacist to find out length of life sentence for murder

A Galway pharmacist found guilty of the brutal murder of her elderly neighbour in Newry three years ago will find out tomorrow the minimum period behind bars she will spend before being considered for release.

Earlier this month, Galway-born Karen Walsh (45 ) of Dublin Road, Newry, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 81-year-old Maire Rankin who was found dead in the bedroom of her home on Christmas Day 2008.

The matter is due to come before Mr Justice Anthony Hart at Belfast Crown Court again tomorrow for the setting of the minium life tariff Walsh will have to serve before being considered for release on licence. Earlier this week, Mr Justice Hart adjourned the matter further to allow him time to consider the guideline authorities and the lengthy victim impact statements from Ms Rankin’s relatives.

Walsh denied the charge, however following a lengthy trial the jury, after two hours of deliberation, returned an unanimous verdict. The jury heard that a crucifix which hung over Ms 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. Evidence had also been given that Ms Rankin had 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.

It is understood that because of the vulnerability of the victim the sentence could be placed in the higher starting point category, meaning that Walsh could face a minimum of 16 years behind bars. The prosecution have stressed that the murder was aggravated by the fact Walsh had been in a position of trust and had shown no remorse.


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