Murdered pensioner's face marked by 'crown of thorns'
Published 23/09/2011 | 05:00
A frail and elderly woman murdered in her bedroom on Christmas Day was struck in the face with a crucifix, a jury heard yesterday.
Belfast Crown Court also heard that a post-mortem examination of the body of 81-year-old Maire Rankin revealed she also had been sexually assaulted and had suffered a total of 15 fractured ribs.
Karen Walsh, a 45-year-old pharmacist who is originally from Galway, denies murdering Mrs Rankin, her next-door neighbour.
The state pathologist for Northern Ireland, Professor Jack Crane, told the court yesterday that a circular bruising pattern on Mrs Rankin's chin would have been consistent with the head of Jesus Christ and his crown of thorns being pushed into the pensioner's face.
He also said that, in his opinion, death was caused by a "multiplicity of blows" to the head and the rib fractures, coupled with her underlying medical problems of hypertension and chronic asthma.
Mrs Rankin's naked body was found lying on the floor of the bedroom in her Dublin Road home in Newry, on Christmas Day, 2008, after she was beaten to death.
The court was also told how Mrs Walsh feared police were going to think she killed the pensioner as she was one of the last persons to visit her.
The accused made the comments during a taped interview with police, which was played in court.
"Oh my sweet divine. I was probably the last person there. They are probably going to think it was me," she said.
Mrs Walsh remained calm throughout yesterday's hearing but looked down at the floor as the jury listened to her police interview, recorded the day after Mrs Rankin was found dead.
During the interview Mrs Walsh recounted her relationship with the deceased, who she described as a "lovely person you couldn't fault".
According to Mrs Walsh, she visited her elderly next-door neighbour shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve with a bottle of vodka and a card.
She spent some time with her elderly neighbour, who she said "wasn't in good form" and was "wheezy" due to her health problems.
Mrs Walsh drank several times straight from the bottle of vodka when she was in the dead woman's bedroom.
There was no presence of alcohol found in Mrs Rankin's blood, according to the state pathologist
After assurance from the pensioner that she would be okay, Mrs Walsh said she left her neighbour's house at around 2.30am.
She was informed the next morning by her husband, Richard Durkin, a prominent Dublin-based financier, that Mrs Rankin's house had been sealed off by police.
The trial continues.