Monday 18 December 2017

Murder accused's DNA found on victim, trial told

Paul Higgins

A FORENSICS expert has told the trial of a woman accused of battering her neighbour to death that the chances of DNA found on the victim's chin coming from someone other than the alleged killer is one in a billion.

The Belfast Crown Court jury also heard that a DNA profile which "could have come" from Karen Walsh was also found on Maire Rankin's breasts and a crucifix.

Forensic biologist Susan Woodroffe said that in relation to the profile found on Mrs Rankin's chin, the probability of someone other than Walsh depositing it there were "less than one in one billion".

She told prosecuting counsel Liam McCollum she could not give a similar statistical analysis for the samples from Mrs Rankin's breasts or the crucifix, because there was not enough DNA obtained.

However Ms Woodroffe said that of a possible 11 components from ms Walsh, there were nine on the sample from the left breast, 10 on the right, and also 10 from the crucifix.

The jury has heard that the naked and battered body of 81-year-old mother-of-eight was found on the bedroom floor of her Dublin Road home in Newry by her brother-in-law on Christmas morning 2008.


She had been beaten about the head, had suffered a total of 15 fractured ribs, and was sexually assaulted.

Pharmacist Karen Walsh (45), who lived next door to her, is accused of the murder.

It is the prosecution case that she is linked to the scene by reason of the DNA evidence and also that a pattern of bruises to Mrs Rankin's chin was inflicted by the crown of thorns on the crucifix.

Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Peter Irvine, Ms Woodroffe agreed that in relation to the DNA on Mrs Rankin's chin, direct transfer was the most likely method of how it got there, and agreed that it could been through a kiss.

Earlier the jury heard evidence from senior forensic scientist William Armstrong who examined the crown of thorns and the pattern of bruising.

He said "they matched exactly", and added that he had not been shown any other item which "could account for the mark on the chin".

Mr Irvine suggested the marks could have been caused by a nebuliser mask Mrs Rankin used for her chronic asthma, but Mr Armstrong replied: "I completely disagree."

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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