| 13.1°C Dublin

Victim's phone used after she died, trial told

SEVEN phonecalls were made from a pensioner's home telephone hours after she had been beaten to death.

The trial surrounding the murder of Marie Rankin (81), who was killed over Christmas 2008, heard yesterday how the calls had been made from her landline even though the pensioner had been lying dead in her bedroom for hours.

The body of the mother of eight, who lived alone, was discovered on the bedroom floor of her home in Newry, Co Down, on Christmas Day by a relative.

A broken crucifix, which usually hung above her bed, was lying on the floor beside the body.


Her next-door neighbour, Karen Walsh (45), a mother of one originally from Galway, is accused of her murder.

She denies the charges, but admits to being in the house on Christmas Eve to bring Mrs Rankin a bottle of vodka as a present.

She claims she spent half-an-hour there and when she left her neighbour was in bed.

Yesterday, on the third day of the trial, the court heard how telephone records obtained by police showed there were several outgoing calls made from Mrs Rankin's landline telephone between 7.30am and 7.38am on Christmas morning.

Forensic medical officer Dr Kenneth Livingstone had earlier placed Mrs Rankin's time of death in the early hours of Christmas morning or late on Christmas Eve.

The phonecalls were made to landline telephone numbers, two of which were recognised Northern Ireland numbers.

The prosecution has previously stated they believed these calls were made by Mrs Walsh as she attempted to contact her partner, Richard Durkin, a prominent Dublin-based financier.

Judge Anthony Hart, presiding over the Belfast Crown Court trial, also heard that Mrs Walsh had asked police on Christmas morning if her neighbour had been beaten.

Detective Sergeant Denise Graham said she had spoken to Mrs Walsh after discovering she had visited the victim the previous evening.

Det Sgt Graham said that the accused had asked her if Mrs Rankin "had been beaten" and if the door was open.

"She asked me these questions a number of times," she said.

Detective Sergeant William Cross told the court that when he had arrested Mrs Walsh at her home on December 27 she had replied: "I can't believe this -- it's bizarre."

The court was told that Mrs Walsh's DNA had been identified on items recovered from her alleged victim's home, including that found on an almost-empty litre bottle of vodka.

The court also heard opposing counsel argue whether the murder weapon used to beat Mrs Rankin to death had been packaged properly.

The broken crucifix had been sent to the Forensic Science Northern Ireland laboratory for examination in a sealed box -- although there was only one seal rather than three as called for in regulations.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent