Belfast Telegraph

‘Victim thanked alleged killer’

By Deborah McAleese

An elderly woman beaten to death in her home penned a letter to the woman accused of her murder a few months before the attack thanking her for her neighbourly assistance, a court has heard.

Maire Rankin (81), who was allegedly attacked with a crucifix by her next door-neighbour, had also bought a Christmas present for her alleged killer's young son.

Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that one night a few months before her death, murder accused Karen Walsh raised the alarm that Mrs Rankin (right) had left the front door of her Newry home open.

The court was told that Mrs Rankin later wrote a letter to businesswoman Walsh thanking her for her help. One of Mrs Rankin's daughters also told the court that her mother had bought a present for Walsh's son.

Brenda Rankin said: "Mummy bought presents for everyone in the terrace. (On Christmas Eve) the present for Mrs Walsh's child had not yet been delivered."

Mrs Rankin was found dead in the bedroom of her Dublin Road home on Christmas morning 2008. She was murdered sometime between 10.50pm on Christmas Eve and 10.30am on Christmas day.

Mother-of-one Walsh admits being in Mrs Rankin's home on Christmas Eve for a festive drink, but denies her murder.

A neighbour who lived close to Mrs Rankin and Walsh told the court that a few hours before the mother-of-eight's body was discovered he had spotted a blonde-haired female sitting on Mrs Rankin's wall.

Paul Rafferty said he looked out of a window in his home when he heard voices outside at around 7.20am on Christmas morning and could see the back of a woman with "blonde, untidy, shoulder-length hair", wearing a "red Fifties-style jumper".

It is the prosecution's case that the person Mr Rafferty saw was Walsh.

However, under cross-examination yesterday when he was shown a photograph of the back of Walsh's head, he admitted it did not match his description.

He was also shown a red jumper with grey stripes, which is believed to have been worn by Walsh on the morning of the murder, but said he was not certain if that was the same jumper that he saw.

The case continues.

Background

Maire Rankin (81) was found dead in the bedroom of her Newry home on Christmas morning 2008. It is alleged that she had been beaten to death by her next-door neighbour Karen Walsh, a 45-year-old mother-of-one. Walsh admits she was in Mrs Rankin's home for a festive drink on Christmas Eve, but denies murdering her.

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