Family of murdered pensioner find solace in precious album
Published 08/10/2011 | 05:00
THE black-and-white photo shows a smartly dressed young couple striding across O'Connell Bridge just moments after they got engaged.
Maire Corr clasps her umbrella in white-gloved hands, her future husband Gerry Rankin smokes his pipe; both are unaware of the street photographer who happened to catch this special moment.
This snapshot of a couple on the brink of a long, happy life together is just one of the treasured photographs their children will sift through this weekend as they prepare themselves for the ordeal of giving a victim impact statement before the sentencing of Maire Rankin's killer Karen Walsh.
For Mrs Rankin's heartbroken family, poring over these photos -- compiled in a special album for the mum of eight when she celebrated her 80th birthday in the summer of 2007 -- brings back happy memories that help keep the horror of their mum's death at bay.
"Looking over these photos helps us remember mummy's humanity and happy life again," said Mrs Rankin's daughter, Brenda.
The widow's body was found in her Newry home on Christmas Day 2008 after she was subjected to a "sustained and frenzied" attack by Galway pharmacist Walsh, who was found guilty of her murder at Belfast's Crown Court last Tuesday.
Mrs Rankin, who was 81 when she died, had been beaten to death and subjected to a sexual assault with her own crucifix, which left the marks of the crown of thorns embedded in her chin.
Walsh's sentence hearing takes place later this month. Although murder attracts a mandatory life sentence in the North, a judge will determine what is the minimum sentence Walsh, a mother of one who owns a pharmacy in Dublin, will serve before she is eligible for parole.
Mrs Rankin met her husband through their shared love of the Irish language.
They met at Irish language classes, married at Newry Cathedral in 1948, and they were one of the first couples in the town to have their wedding ceremony conducted entirely in Irish.
A special Mass for Mrs Rankin's 80th birthday was celebrated in June 2007 by Tom Williams, the Catholic auxiliary bishop of Liverpool, who was a close friend of the widow and her family. Just over a year later, he was back in Newry to preside over her Requiem Mass.
Another of Maire's daughters, Aine Brody, recalled the special memories that all come to life on the pages of the family album which she helped put together for her mum's 80th birthday celebrations.
"We just wanted to capture the most momentous occasions in mummy's life," she said. "It would be difficult to compile that album now, especially as we had to take apart the family home after we were touched by that evil.
"We have lived hour to hour for much of the past three years and it is hard to describe the impact of mummy's death. It is hard to look back and relive the experience.It is emotionally draining but we draw comfort from the album and from the incredible support that we have received."
Walsh, who took the unusual step of giving evidence at her own trial, claimed that she had left her neighbour's home at 2am and returned to her home next door, where she relayed concerns about Mrs Rankin's health to her husband, Richard Durkin.
However, Walsh did not call Mr Durkin as an alibi in her defence.