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Sunday 20 January 2019

Neighbour's DNA on vodka bottle in crucifix murder -- court is told

ARREST: Socialite denies killing

A VODKA bottle recovered from the scene of an elderly woman's murder had DNA from her neighbour, a court has heard.

Pharmacist Karen Walsh told police "I cannot believe this -- it's bizarre" after she was arrested on suspicion of murder.

The 45-year-old is alleged to have repeatedly asked police if her murdered neighbour "had been beaten", within hours of her battered body being found on Christmas Day, her trial has heard.

Walsh, who is originally from Galway but now living in Newry, Co Down, has denied beating grandmother Maire Rankin to death in the early hours of Christmas Day 2008.

Her husband Richard Durkin is a prominent Dublin tax consultant and accountant.

A forensic scientist gave evidence yesterday about items recovered from the scene.



CRUCIFIX

Among them was a litre bottle of vodka that was almost empty - it had just 5mm of vodka left in it.

It was tested for DNA, the trial heard. It produced a mixed profile, but the major contributor to it was Walsh.

The court has already heard that Walsh had visited the murder victim to give her a present of a bottle of vodka.

Mrs Rankin (81) was found at her Dublin Road home by a relative.

It is alleged that the "frail, fragile and delicate" Mrs Rankin had been beaten with a crucifix and that she was sexually assaulted after her death.

The jury has already heard it is the Crown case that DNA evidence links Walsh to the attack.

Walsh admits to being in the house but claims she went earlier in the evening to bring Mrs Rankin a present and when she left her neighbour was alive.

Det Sgt William Cross told Belfast Crown Court that he arrested Walsh at her home on December 27, two days after Mrs Rankin's body was found.

Det Sgt Cross said he cautioned Ms Walsh, and she replied "I can't believe this -- it's bizarre".

Det Sgt Denise Graham told the jury she went to Mrs Rankin's home on Christmas Day and was told by Walsh's husband Richard Durkin that his wife had visited the pensioner the night before.



NIGHTDRESS

Asked by prosecuting QC Liam McCollum what Walsh said, the officer said the defendant informed her she had visited her neighbour the night before at 10pm to give her a bottle of vodka as a present and had left half an hour later, at approximately 10.30pm.

The sergeant said Walsh told her that Mrs Rankin let her into the house via the intercom.

Det Sgt Graham told the court Walsh informed her Mrs Rankin was upstairs in bed. Initially she said she couldn't see what she was wearing, but later said it was a blue nightdress.

Walsh also told her that she had put her arm around Mrs Rankin's shoulders and helped her take her inhalers.

Sgt Graham said that Walsh asked her if her neighbour "had been beaten" and if the door had been left open, adding that "she asked me those questions a number of times".

She said to Walsh she may have been the last person to see Mrs Rankin alive.

In cross examination, Sgt Graham admitted Walsh freely volunteered her account of what happened, and that she had gone to see Mrs Rankin around 10pm. The trial continues.

hnews@herald.ie

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