A murdered pensioner may have been sexually assaulted in a bid to throw detectives off the scent of her alleged killer, a court heard yesterday.
Prosecutors revealed the possible motive for an attack on 81-year-old Maire Rankin in her Newry home as the woman accused of her murder was granted bail.
Karen Walsh, a pharmacist and wife of a high-profile Dublin tax consultant, was ordered to put up cash and assets totalling £60,000 (€66,000) as part of her release conditions.
Mrs Rankin's naked body was discovered on the bedroom floor of her Dublin Road property on Christmas Day by her brother-in-law. She had suffered head injuries and a number of broken ribs.
Walsh, a next door neighbour of the victim, is alleged to have been the last person to have gone into the property, the court was told.
Crown counsel Philip Henry told the High Court in Belfast that the 42-year-old gave police three different times for when she was in Mrs Rankin's home late on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning.
It was claimed she brought with her a bottle of vodka and had also visited other neighbours.
Mr Henry also said: "Police believe the scene in and around the deceased's body had been cleaned. A clean-up operation took place prior to police arrival."
The barrister confirmed indications of a sexual assault involving some type of smooth object were discovered during examinations of the body.
"It's one line of inquiry that this was a potential attempt to throw the police off the scent of the applicant in terms of this investigation," he said.
Ms Walsh's accountant husband, Richard Durkin, was in court as the hearing was told how the couple live Monday to Friday in Dublin's Berkley Court Hotel.