Belfast Telegraph

Seven calls from OAP's phone after murder, court told

By Patrice Dougan

Seven calls were made from a Newry pensioner’s home telephone hours after she had been beaten to death.

The trial considering the murder of Maire Rankin (81), who was killed on Christmas Eve 2008, heard how calls had been made from her landline while the pensioner was dead in her bedroom.

The mother-of-eight, who lived alone, was discovered on the bedroom floor of her Dublin Road home on Christmas Day.

A broken crucifix, which usually hung above her bed, was lying on the floor beside the body. The prosecution alleges this was the murder weapon.

Her next-door neighbour Karen Walsh (45) is accused of her murder.

She denies the charges, but admits being in the house on Christmas Eve to bring Mrs Walsh a bottle of vodka as a present.

She claims she spent half-an-hour there and, when she left, her neighbour was in bed. Yesterday, on the third day of the trial, the court heard how telephone records obtained by police showed there were several out-going calls made from Mrs Rankin’s landline telephone between 7.30am and 7.38am on Christmas morning.

Forensic medical officer Dr Kenneth Livingstone had earlier placed Mrs Rankin’s time of death in the early hours of Christmas morning or late Christmas Eve.

The prosecution has previously stated it believes these calls were made by Mrs Walsh as she attempted to contact her husband Richard Durkin.

Judge Anthony Hart, presiding over the Crown Court trial in Belfast’s Laganside courthouse, heard that Mrs Walsh repeatedly asked police on Christmas morning if her neighbour had been beaten. During the afternoon session the court was told Mrs Walsh’s DNA had been identified on items recovered from her alleged victim’s home, including on a nearly empty one-litre bottle of vodka.

The court heard opposing counsel argue whether the alleged murder weapon was packaged properly.

The broken crucifix had been sent to the Forensic Science Northern Ireland laboratory for examination in a sealed box.

Forensic science officer Lawrence Marshall was quizzed over the way the box had been sealed, because it had only one ‘integrity seal’ instead of three.

Mr Marshall said, while this was not regulation, it had not led to any damage or contamination of the evidence.

When asked by Judge Hart if he had any concerns over the integrity of the evidence because of the absent seals, he said: “Personally, the answer to that is no, it doesn’t cause me concern. However, it’s not the strict adherence to the quality procedures.”

The trial continues.

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