Galway native killer appeals murder conviction sentence

Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Galway-native pharmacist Karen Walsh has lodged an appeal against her conviction last month for the murder of an elderly grandmother.

Ms Walsh who was educated in Galway city and NUI, Galway was told she must serve a minimum of 20 years in prison for the murder of her Newry neighbour Maire Rankin (81 ) on Christmas morning three years ago.

The sentence handed down to Ms Walsh was one of the longest minimum jail terms for a female killer in the North.

Walsh, a married mother of one, has now lodged an appeal against both her conviction and sentence, the Irish Independent reported yesterday.

The full grounds of her appeal, lodged late last week, are not yet known. But the prospect of an appeal was raised at her trial where she protested her innocence, even as the unanimous jury verdict was handed down.

Walsh, who gets free legal aid, changed her legal team on four occasions and it is understood she may have instructed a new legal team for her appeal.

The murder of Maire Rankin, a widowed mother of eight, was one of the most gruesome in Northern Ireland in recent years.

The jury heard that Walsh, who drank a litre bottle of vodka in Mrs Rankin's house, physically and sexually assaulted the pensioner with a crucifix that had been hanging on the wall.

The pharmacist used the crucifix to attack Mrs Rankin, a devout Catholic, who was using a nebuliser when she was struck on the face.

There was a mark of the crown of thorns from the cross, which had been bought as a wedding present, on Mrs Rankin's chin.

Sentencing Walsh, trial judge Mr Justice Hart said that she had inflicted "a further degradation" upon Mrs Rankin by removing her clothing and then sexually molesting her in order to make it look as if an intruder had broken in and attacked the victim after the defendant had left.

Vulnerable

"This additional degradation represents a very serious aggravating factor in an already grave case," said the judge, who added that his sentence reflected the "exceptional vulnerability" of Mrs Rankin and the "truly heinous nature of the crime".

Murder attracts a mandatory life term in Northern Ireland, but the minimum period that a killer must serve before being considered for release is determined by the trial judge.

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