Thursday 27 October 2016

Dublin pharmacist Karen Walsh loses appeal against conviction for battering her elderly neighbour to death

Alan Erwin

Published 25/06/2015 | 12:01

Karen Walsh at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast.Photo Garrett White
Karen Walsh at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast.Photo Garrett White

A PHARMACIST jailed for battering her elderly neighbour to death with a crucifix failed today in a bid to overturn her conviction.

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Claims that the jury was misdirected on DNA evidence, the time of death, the intention of whoever carried out the attack and Walsh's level of intoxication were dismissed.

Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan confirmed: "We have no sense of unease about the safety of this conviction."

Mrs Rankin, 81, was found dead in the bedroom of her Dublin Road home in Newry, Co Down on Christmas morning 2008.

The victim, a devout Catholic, had suffered up to 15 broken ribs and been beaten with a crucifix given to her as a wedding gift.

Evidence of a sexual assault - thought to have been carried out to cover the killer's tracks - was also discovered.

Walsh, a 48-year-old Dublin-based pharmacist who often stayed at a house she owned next door to the murdered pensioner, is currently serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence for carrying out the deadly attack.

During her trial, the prosecution claimed she arrived at Mrs Rankin's home already drunk and with a bottle of vodka.

It was alleged that the mother of one then flew into a rage and attacked the pensioner after being chastised about her drinking and told to go home to her young son.

Despite being found guilty of murder Walsh continued to protest her innocence.

She insisted that she left the victim's hours before the attack took place.

Over the course of a four-day appeal hearing her legal team contended that the jury was misdirected on key areas.

They argued that the guilty verdict was unsafe and that Walsh should be granted a retrial.

Part of the challenge was based on a contention that someone else could have been in Mrs Rankin's house shortly after the estimated time of death.

But after studying phone billing records a telecommunications expert called by the defence reversed his original opinion that three calls made to a pensioner's home after she was attacked were probably answered.

The court also heard that DNA recovered from the murder victim's chin contained all 11 markers matching those of Walsh.

The probability of a different match was put at less than one in a billion people.

Police called to the murder scene found a bottle of vodka Walsh claimed to have brought to Mrs Rankin as a Christmas present. It was still two thirds full.

Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Gillen and Mr Justice Deeny, held that the evidence did not raise a case that the pharmacist was so drunk that it affected the issue about whether she had formed an intent to kill.

Dismissing the appeal, he said: "In our view this was a strong circumstantial case."

Belfast Telegraph

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