'Crucifix Killer' Karen Walsh refuses to accept guilt
The refusal of 'Crucifix Killer' Karen Walsh to accept her guilt for battering her elderly neighbour to death means the length of time she will spend behind bars may be longer, her own lawyer has admitted.
And prosecutor Liam McCollum said the vulnerability of Maire Rankin put sentencing into the "higher starting point category" of 16 years.
Walsh will find out on Friday the minimum period she will remain in jail for the brutal murder of 81-year-old Mrs Rankin.
Earlier this month Galway-born pharmacist Walsh (45), with an address next door to her victim on the Dublin Road in Newry, was unanimously convicted of murdering Mrs Rankin.
The naked and battered body of the mother-of-eight was found by her brother-in-law and daughter on Christmas Day 2008 after Walsh, having drunk nearly a whole bottle of vodka neat, bludgeoned her to death with a crucifix.
She then sexually assaulted the pensioner to make it look like a sex attack.
Yesterday prosecution QC McCollum said the grisly murder was aggravated by the fact that Walsh was in a position of trust with her neighbour, had given numerous dishonest accounts and had shown "no remorse" for the killing.
One potential mitigating factor he said was the possibility that the 15 rib fractures Mrs Rankin sufffered may have been sustained as Walsh tried to resuscitate the pensioner.
The lawyer added that another might be the intent Walsh had when she attacked Mrs Rankin as it was accepted the murder was not planned or premeditated but spontaneous.
Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Hart agreed it was and remarked the attack happened "for some unfathomable reason".
Defence lawyer Peter Irvine told the court that "to a large extent" he was limited in what he could say on Walsh's behalf as she continues to maintain her innocence.
He added, however, that he accepted it was a case for the higher starting point, as well as the aggravating features.
As Walsh remained impassive in the dock, wearing a black trouser suit, Mr Justice Hart said he would fix the minimum tariff she will serve of her life sentence on Friday morning.
He said he wanted to reflect on sentencing guidelines and the "very lengthy and carefully composed" victim impact statements from Mrs Rankin's relatives before setting the tariff Walsh will serve before she is even considered for release.
Murder victim Maire Rankin's family have still not been told why the 81-year-old grandmother was beaten to death early on Christmas Day 2008.
Karen Walsh's constant denial of any involvement in Mrs Rankin's death, despite "overwhelming" evidence against her, has left the Newry woman's grieving family without any real explanation for why she was murdered.
Even as she was led away to the cells after the jury convicted her of murder, she turned and told the judge: "I'm completely innocent."