The killer of a pensioner beaten with a crucifix may not have intended to murder her, the Court of Appeal heard today.
Lawyers for a pharmacist jailed for the deadly attack on Maire Rankin also claimed some injuries could have been inflicted on the elderly victim during resuscitation attempts.
Karen Walsh is seeking to overturn her conviction for murdering her neighbour in the early hours of Christmas Day 2008.
Opening her bid to clear her name, defence counsel contended the trial judge failed to properly direct the jury on other key areas about the time of death, differences in DNA samples, ands issues around Walsh's level of intoxication.
Mrs Rankin, 81, was found dead in the bedroom of her Dublin Road home in Newry, Co Down.
The 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 - apparently carried out to cover the killer's tracks - was also discovered.
Walsh, 48, is currently serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence for carrying out the deadly attack
She had worked in Dublin but often stayed at a house she owned next door to the victim.
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 continues to protest her innocence.
Handcuffed and dressed in a cream coat and navy cardigan, she was led into the Court of Appeal in Belfast to hear the legal bid to overturn her conviction.
Walsh's accountant husband Richard Durkin sat in the public gallery, just a few feet from the victim's relatives.
Frank O'Donoghue QC, for the appellant, confirmed plans to introduce new evidence about phone calls made to Mrs Rankin's home on the night she was killed.
Turning to other grounds of challenge, the barrister claimed the trial judge failed to properly direct the jury on opinion-based evidence from a DNA expert in the case.
He also contended that guidance on the time of death went "far too far" in inviting jurors to dismiss a possible scenario which supported Walsh's version of events.
Mr O'Donoghue told Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Gillen and Mr Justice Deeny: "My client's case has always been that she is completely innocent of this offence."
Taking issue with how the jury had been directed on the perpetrator's plan, he argued: "The intention may have fallen short of an intention to cause serious harm."
The barrister advanced the possibility that whoever attacked Mrs Rankin then tried to revive her.
"The injuries could have been consistent with an attempt to resuscitate," he claimed.
Challenging him on that point, Lord Justice Gillen asked: "Someone mysteriously went into the house, attempted to resuscitate her, caused these injuries incidentally and that person hasn't surfaced?"
But Mr O'Donoghue insisted reasonable consideration should have been given to that possibility.
According to his assessment the trial judge had "usurped" the function of the jury on important points at the trial.
The appeal continues.