Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pensioner killer loses conviction appeal

The woman convicted of murdering Newry pensioner Maire Rankin has lost her appeal to have the conviction overturned.

Karen Walsh (48) was found guilty in 2011 of killing her 81-year-old neighbour who was found dead in her Dublin Road home on Christmas Day 2008.

Mrs Rankin had suffered significant injuries including up to 15 broken ribs when she was beaten with a crucifix.

Over the course of a four-day appeal hearing, Walsh’s legal team contended that the jury was misdirected on key areas and a retrial should be granted.

On Thursday, however, senior judges rejected all grounds of appeal presented.  Claims that the jury was misdirected on DNA evidence, the time of death, the intention of whoever carried out the attack and her level of intoxication were dismissed.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan told the hearing: “We have no sense of unease about the safety of this conviction.”

Outside court Mrs Rankin’s family expressed relief at the outcome.

“It’s been a very difficult process for us over the past six and a half years, it’s taken an immense toll on the family,” her daughter Brenda said.  “There is a very evil, dangerous person who seems to have manipulated every aspect of the court system.  It seems that Karen Walsh has been pulling the strings of the legal system… and they have indulged her at every whim.”

Praising the judge’s description of her mother, she added: “What the Lord Chief Justice brought back this morning was the sadness and the awful death she was subjected to.  That’s been completely ignored in the legal debate, but he talked about mummy and brought her back to the centre of the focus.”

Senior public prosecutor Kirsten McKevitt also welcomed the appeal verdict.

She said: “The Public Prosecution Service legal team put considerable effort into ensuring that this case was properly presented at trial and also robustly defended at appeal.

Walsh is currently serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence, one of the longest ever handed down to a woman in Northern Ireland.