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Man who raped his 74-year-old aunt dies in prison weeks before his appeal

Christopher Ward subjected his aunt to a four-hour ordeal.

Image: Shutterstock

A MAN JAILED for raping his then 74-year-old aunt has died from a heart attack weeks before his appeal was due to be heard.

Christopher Ward, (52) with a last address in Birmingham, England, had pleaded not guilty to the rape and sexual assault of his then 74-year-old aunt Kathleen Ward at her Dundalk home on 13 March 2011.

He was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury following an eight-day trial and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by Mr Justice George Birmingham on 19 May 2014.

Ms Ward, a widow, waived her right to anonymity at the time so that her nephew could be identified.

Ward was due to appeal his conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal in less than two weeks time.

However, his barrister, Michael O’Higgins SC, told the Court of Appeal today that “regrettably Mr Ward had a heart attack on Friday and died”.

That in effect meant the matter will not proceed on that date, Mr O’Higgins said.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who was Ward’s trial judge and would therefor not have heard the appeal, said he was sorry to hear about the news of “Mr Ward’s demise”.

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The appeal which was listed for hearing on Tuesday 18 April next will not now proceed.

At the time of the rape, Ward was at large from the UK where he had 92 previous convictions.

Following his sentence hearing last year, Kathleen Ward told The Herald that her nephew came to her house on that day after absconding from Hatfield prison.

She said she would make him a cup of tea but he then started to rip her clothes off and held her at knifepoint. She was then subjected to an almost four-hour ordeal.

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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