Crucifix killer gets 20 years for the brutal murder of her next door neighbour
A pharmacist who murdered her next-door neighbour using a crucifix on Christmas Day was jailed today for a minimum of 20 years.
Karen Walsh, 45, showed no emotion as Mr Justice Hart sentenced her at Belfast Crown Court for what he described as a sustained and brutal attack on an elderly, defenceless and frail woman.
Walsh, a mother of one and originally from Galway, had been drinking from a bottle of vodka at the time of the murder in the early hours of Christmas Day 2008 at her next-door neighbour Marie Rankin's Newry, County Down, home.
Walsh, who had called round to visit her 81-year-old neighbour, lashed out at her with a crucifix which had been given to Mrs Rankin as a wedding present.
The judge said Walsh did not intend to kill Mrs Rankin but to cause her grievous bodily harm.
But she used the crucifix to attack Mrs Rankin, a devout Catholic, who was using a nebuliser when she was struck on the face.
The attack happened in Dublin Road.
Walsh, her blonde hair swept back into a ponytail and wearing a dark trouser suit, sat in the dock with her hands clasped as the judge set the minimum term of imprisonment.
Walsh left the court today still protesting her innocence but the judge said she had shown no remorse and posed a significant risk to the public.
Mrs Rankin also suffered eight broken ribs.
The judge said: "She 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 Mrs Rankin after the defendant had left.
"This additional degradation represents a very serious aggravating factor in an already grave case."
Afterwards Mrs Rankin's elder daughter Emily Rankin said Walsh never flinched throughout the trial and showed no remorse. She said Walsh was a dangerous woman who had to be kept in custody.
Mrs Rankin's two sisters, Annie Morgan and Clair McDonnail, were among more than 40 relatives and friends who packed the gallery to hear the sentence.
Walsh's husband Richard Durkin, a Dublin-based tax consultant who spent the weekends with his wife and young son at the house in Newry, sat on his own, but his wife never looked back as she was escorted from the dock.
Ms Rankin, a university lecturer, said Christmas would never be the same again because of the murder but the family was pleased with the length of sentence.
She said: "It is only now that we are beginning to come to terms with what has happened."
But she added: "We will rebuild our lives and come to terms with this."