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Mystery of missing nightdress haunts devastated family

The jury in the shocking murder trial had to take in several unusual features during the high-profile investigation.

It has emerged that the nightdress worn by grandmother Maire Rankin on the night she was killed by Karen Walsh has never been found despite extensive searches of the crime scene.

During the trial at Belfast Crown Court, the jury heard that Mrs Rankin, who had 15 fractured ribs and suffered a "multiplicity of blows" to the head, was "a very modest" woman who would not have walked around her home naked.



concerns

Walsh (45) will be sentenced next month for beating Mrs Rankin to death at her home on Christmas morning 2008.

She protested her innocence as she was led from the court on Tuesday, claiming that she had left her neighbour's home at 2am and returned to her own home next door where she relayed concerns about Mrs Rankin's health to her husband, Dublin financier Richard Durkin.

Today Brenda Rankin, one of Mrs Rankin's eight children, said there was "no euphoria" at the unanimous verdict.

"It was just a quiet time of calm and peace that justice had been done," said Mrs Rankin. "Now I feel we can breathe again."

But the devastated family say they are dreading Christmas.

Mrs Rankin's family are facing another festive season without their mother, sister and grandmother, and daughter Mairead told the Herald that Christmas no longer holds much joy for them.

"The first time I hear a Christmas carol, or see Christmas things in the shops, I say, 'Oh no, here we go'. My heart sinks. Christmas is just one big nightmare," said Mairead.

Walsh was convicted of the killing of the Newry woman in what was described as a sustained and frenzied attack, including a sexual assault with her own crucifix.



bruised

Walsh received a mandatory life sentence after the verdict was unanimously reached by the jury in less than two hours at Belfast Crown Court.

Mrs Rankin's naked and badly bruised body was found in the bedroom of her Dublin Road home in Newry, Co Down, on Christmas morning 2008.

Walsh took the unusual step of giving evidence at her own trial and relayed details of the conversation she claims she had with her husband in the early hours of Christmas morning.

cfeehan@herald.ie