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Crucifix killer Karen Walsh refused Supreme Court bid to overturn conviction

By Alan Erwin

Published 06/11/2015

Karen Walsh was jailed for the murder of Maire Rankin
Karen Walsh was jailed for the murder of Maire Rankin
Maire Rankin
Maire Rankin's home in Newry, Co Down

A pharmacist jailed for battering her elderly neighbour to death with a crucifix has been blocked from going to the UK's highest court in a new bid to overturn her conviction.

Senior judges in Belfast refused permission for Karen Walsh's legal team to reopen claims about how her level of drunkenness impacted on any intent to kill Maire Rankin.

They ruled today that no point of law of general importance had been raised worthy of consideration by the Supreme Court in London.

It means 48-year-old Walsh has now exhausted all her domestic appeal options.

Mrs Rankin, 81, was found dead in the bedroom of her Dublin Road home in Newry, Co Down on Christmas morning 2008.

The victim, a devout Catholic, had suffered up to 15 broken ribs and been beaten with a crucifix given to her as a wedding gift.

Evidence of a sexual assault - thought to have been carried out to cover the killer's tracks - was also discovered.

Walsh, a Dublin-based pharmacist who often stayed at a house she owned next door to the murdered pensioner, is currently serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence for carrying out the deadly attack.

During her trial, the prosecution claimed she arrived at Mrs Rankin's home already drunk and with a bottle of vodka.

It was alleged that the mother of one then flew into a rage and attacked the pensioner after being chastised about her drinking and told to go home to her young son.

Despite being found guilty of murder Walsh continued to protest her innocence.

She insisted that she left the victim's hours before the attack took place.

Earlier this year her lawyers appealed the guilty verdict by claiming the jury was misdirected on key area.

They contended that her conviction was unsafe and that she should be granted a retrial.

Although that challenge was thrown out Walsh's legal team returned to the Court of Appeal today seeking leave to take her case to the Supreme Court.

Mrs Rankin's family were once again in attendance to hear the latest stage in the legal process.

Walsh's accountant husband Richard Durkin sat directly in front of them in the public gallery.

It was argued that the jury was not given proper guidance on whether she can have intended to kill or inflict serious injury to Mrs Rankin based on her level of intoxication.

Defence barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC pointed out that his client was said to have downed up to a third of a bottle of neat vodka that night.

"The direction that should be issued to the jury is to satisfy itself, being a crime of specific intent, that this accused actually formed the specific intent," he said.

In this case that was not done, and what I'm asking is that the Supreme Court should actively consider this issue."

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justice Gillen and Mr Justice Deeny, held that directions were given to the jury on the alcohol consumption issues.

Dismissing the application, he confirmed: "It doesn't seem to us that raises any point of law of general public importance."

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