Dublin pharmacist Walsh jailed for murdering granny with crucifix
Dublin pharmacist Karen Walsh, 45, was today jailed at Belfast Crown Court for a minimum of 20 years for murdering her next-door neighbour, grandmother Marie Rankin, 81, with a crucifix on Christmas Day 2008 at her home in Newry, County Down.
Walsh showed no emotion as she was told the minimum term she would serve for the savage murder of the 81-year-old nearly three years ago.
Handing down the sentence at Laganside Crown Court this morning, Mr Justice Hart said his sentence reflected the “exceptional vulnerability” of Mrs Rankin and the “truly heinous nature of the crime”.
Walsh, who was dressed in a black suit, showed no emotion throughout the 20 minute sentencing hearing which was attended by members of the victim’s family as well as the killer’s husband Richard Durkin.
Earlier this month Galway-born pharmacist Walsh (45) was jailed for life after being unanimously convicted of murdering Mrs Rankin.
The pensioner — who lived next door to Walsh on the Dublin Road in Newry — was brutally killed in the early hours of Christmas Day in 2008.
Her naked and battered body was found just hours later by her distraught brother-in-law and daughter in the bedroom of her Co Down home.
It was there that Walsh, having drunk nearly a whole bottle of vodka neat, bludgeoned her to death with a crucifix during a late night visit.
She then sexually assaulted the mother-of-eight to make it look like a sex attack.
The marks of the crown of thorns from a family crucifix used to beat her were found on her chin.
Walsh worked in Dublin, but owned a house next door to Mrs Rankin in Newry in 2008.
Earlier this month, the 12-member jury took just under two hours to find the 45-year-old guilty of murder.
Mrs Rankin’s eldest daughter Emily said their beloved mother had suffered a horrific death and sexual assault in her bedroom during the early hours of December 25.
Her sister Brenda — who came upon clumps of their mother’s hair lying all over her bedroom — said she was upset that Karen Walsh was the last face her mother had seen.
Afterwards Mrs Rankin's elder daughter Emily Rankin said Walsh never flinched throughout the trial and showed no remorse. She said Walsh was a dangerous woman who had to be kept in custody.
Mrs Rankin's two sisters, Annie Morgan and Clair McDonnail, were among more than 40 relatives and friends who packed the gallery to hear the sentence.
Walsh's husband Richard Durkin, a Dublin-based tax consultant who spent the weekends with his wife and young son at the house in Newry, sat on his own, but his wife never looked back as she was escorted from the dock.
Ms Rankin, a university lecturer, said Christmas would never be the same again because of the murder but the family was pleased with the length of sentence.
She said: "It is only now that we are beginning to come to terms with what has happened."
But she added: "We will rebuild our lives and come to terms with this."