Monday 20 November 2017

Family tells of anguish as murderer is jailed

Deborah McAleese and Michael Donnelly

MAIRE Rankin's heartbroken family said yesterday that their lives have been destroyed because of the violent way the mother-of-eight's life was taken.

Speaking after 45 year-old pharmacist Karen Walsh was found guilty of murdering her 81-year-old next door neighbour, Mrs Rankin's eldest daughter Emily Rankin said that her mother died alone and frightened.

She was speaking moments after a Belfast jury unanimously found Galway-born Walsh guilty of the murder of her elderly neighbour in Newry, Co Down three years ago.

"Mammy suffered a horrific death and sexual assault in her bedroom during the early hours of Christmas morning 2008. State pathologist Professor Jack Crane described the multiplicity of blows which mammy received during a sustained and frenzied attack by Karen Walsh," said Emily Rankin.

"She was savagely and persistently beaten with a crucifix, clumps of hair were violently pulled out by the roots, she was left with head injuries and broken ribs before being subjected to the ultimate defilement of her body."

She added that her mother was a kind, caring person who spent her life helping people.

"She would never have hurt anybody. She had the right to feel secure in her own home, but because of her trusting nature and kindness she was subjected to a frenzied assault and a horrific murder.

"She died alone and frightened. She was deprived of a dignified death in the company of her family. Our lives have been decimated by the violent way in which mammy met her death."

Emily said that sitting through the trial was a "harrowing experience" for the family.

Ms Walsh had admitted calling to Mrs Rankin's home late on Christmas Eve where she sat in the frail pensioner's bedroom, drinking straight from a bottle of vodka.

However, she always maintained she had nothing to do with the murder.

Earlier, Mr Justice Tony Hart told Walsh she should be under no illusion that her life sentence would amount to "a lengthy term" in jail.

"Whatever happened that night, this was a brutal attack on an elderly and defenceless woman," he said.

Mr Justice Hart told her that after pre-sentence probation reports had been completed, he would fix the minimum tariff she must serve in jail before even being considered for release.

As Walsh was lead to the cells, she turned and told the judge: "I'm completely innocent."

Over the course of the two week trial, the jury have heard that the naked and battered body of Mrs Rankin was found by her brother-in-law on Christmas morning.

Pathologist Prof Jack Crane said her death was caused by trauma to her head, coupled with 15 fractured ribs and her underlying medical complaints of hypertension and high blood pressure.

He also found evidence that she had been sexually assaulted and that Christ's crown of thorns had been violently thrust into her chin, causing a near perfect circle of bruising and abrasion.

Walsh's DNA was found on Mrs Rankin's breasts, chin, the crucifix and on a near empty litre bottle of vodka which she had drunk neat, straight from the bottle.

After beating the pensioner to death, Walsh calmly sat and ate a mince pie, surrounded by wrapped Christmas presents.

Irish Independent

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