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Crucifix killing accused asked police if victim beaten to death

A SOCIALITE who repeatedly asked police if her next-door neighbour had been "beaten to death" couldn't possibly have known her death was suspicious when she was speaking to them, a trial has heard.

Karen Walsh (45) repeatedly asked police officers if her elderly neighbour, Maire Rankin (81) had been beaten to death when they called to her house around 1pm on Christmas Day.

Walsh had claimed her husband, Dublin-based accountant Richard Durkin, saw a report on teletext around lunchtime on Christmas Day saying the death was suspicious.

The prosecution called rebuttal evidence in that regard and the jury heard from the Ireland editor of the Press Association, Deric Henderson, who said his report was not issued until 2.31pm. He told Belfast Crown Court that the report would have appeared on teletext "within an hour" afterwards.

Liam McCollum, prosecuting, said the only explanation for Walsh's query to police was that she had beaten her neighbour to death. Walsh has consistently denied killing Mrs Rankin in her Dublin Road, Newry, home on Christmas Eve 2008.

Giving evidence yesterday, a DNA expert for the defence claimed that traces found on Mrs Rankin's breasts could not "conclusively" be said to be from her alleged killer.

Professor Dan Krane, who gave evidence via a live video link-up with Ohio University in the US, claimed that while Walsh could not be excluded as a possible DNA match to DNA found on Mrs Rankin's breasts "no statistical weight can be attached to that conclusion".

Prof Krane said that due to the mixture and small quantity of the sample, the DNA was very difficult to test and one "cannot come up with an accurate statistical weight in a scientific setting".

Defence barrister Peter Irvine said Prof Krane's evidence concluded the defence case. It is alleged that Walsh beat Mrs Rankin to death with a crucifix, stripped her naked and sexually assaulted her after death.

The mother-of-eight suffered a "multiplicity of blows" to her head, had suffered 15 rib fractures as well as bruising to her face and arms.


It is the prosecution case that Walsh, a pharmacist who lived in a Dublin hotel during the week and stayed in Newry at weekends, lost her temper with Mrs Rankin and attacked her after she started lecturing her that she was ruining her life.

Mr McCollum claimed Mrs Rankin told Walsh she should have been at home with her husband and young son, instead of lying on her bed in the middle of Christmas night drinking vodka neat from a bottle.

He alleged Walsh couldn't have an old lady telling her "how to live your life" and she killed Mrs Rankin in a drink-fuelled rage and then staged a sexual assault to try and cover up her crime.The case was adjourned until Monday.