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Socialite 'is killer or very unlucky' crucifix trial told

A DUBLIN-based pharmacist accused of murdering her elderly next-door neighbour on Christmas morning is either the killer or "the unluckiest person in the world", her trial has heard.

The prosecution in the Maire Rankin murder trial has said the evidence makes "an overwhelming case" against the accused, Karen Walsh.

Prosecution counsel Liam McCollum was summing up on day nine of the trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Mrs Rankin (81) was found murdered in her Dublin Road home in Newry on Christmas morning 2008. She had been beaten to death with a crucifix, had 15 rib fractures and had been sexually assaulted.

Walsh, a 45-year-old pharmacist from Dublin who owned the house next door, denies murder.

Closing the case for the prosecution, Mr McCollum said Walsh had been in Mrs Rankin's house that night, her DNA had been found on the victim and on the murder weapon, and she had given conflicting accounts of her movements.

He said she was either the killer or "the unluckiest person in the world, that someone else did it but left so much incriminating evidence which points to her guilt".

He told the jury that if they added up all the evidence, there could be no doubt that Walsh was guilty.

In summing up the case to the jury, Mr McCollum said there was no sign of forced entry to Mrs Rankin's house and there was a lack of forensic evidence linking anyone else to the scene.

He also said that phone records showed seven attempts were made to contact Walsh's husband Richard Durkin, a successful accountant and tax consultant, from a phone in Mrs Rankin's house between 7.30am and 7.40am on Christmas morning.

In relation to the phone calls, Mrs McCollum said Walsh had killed Mrs Rankin, was "in a panic", and "didn't know what to do".

The lawyer added that Walsh's account of what happened was "bizarre" and "unbelievable" and he contended that she was not telling the truth.

He urged the jury to use their common sense, claiming it was "very peculiar" to visit an elderly woman at 11.30pm at night, adding it was "crystal clear that all the evidence points to her guilt".

Counsel for the defence, Peter Irvine, argued the case was circumstantial and when the jury examined the various strands the only conclusion they could come to was that Walsh was not guilty, and the prosecution had failed to prove the case against her beyond a reasonable doubt.

He said Walsh's fingerprints were not found on the crucifix nor on the telephone, and it was possible her DNA on Mrs Rankin's breasts was as a result of secondary transfer, when she hugged and kissed the pensioner, who then touched herself.

The judge, Mr Justice Anthony Hart, is now summing up in the case, after which the jury of five men and seven women will retire to consider its verdict.

hnews@herald.ie