Pharmacist to face trial for murder of Newry pensioner

May 18, 2010

y Brónagh Murphy

The next door neighbour of a Newry pensioner found battered to death in her home is to stand trial for her murder, a judge has ruled.

Karen Walsh is accused of killing her 81-year-old neighbour Maire Rankin, whose body was found by her family in her Dublin Road home on Christmas Day 2008.

At the time, Walsh , who ran her own pharmacy business in the Republic, was living next door to Mrs Rankin.

During a preliminary inquiry hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court on Wednesday, District Judge Amanda Henderson ruled that the 43-year-old pharmacist is to stand trial for the murder.

Mrs Rankin suffered multiple injuries to her head and body and, during previous court hearings, it was suggested that a crucifix might have been used to inflict some of the injuries.  Prosecutors have alleged that DNA from both the victim and Walsh was found on the base of a broken crucifix close to the body.

Walsh had previously been granted bail to stay in Dublin, but was later ordered to relocate to Belfast and surrender her passport after information was received about alleged plans to flee.   A previous court hearing was told that Gardai said she had been making inquiries about undergoing cosmetic surgery.

It was also alleged that Walsh approached another inmate while in custody about obtaining a forged passport.

Her defence barristers have stressed both the plastic surgery and passport claims are vigorously denied.

Walsh was released on continuing bail while a date is to be fixed for her trial at Belfast Crown Court.