A man has been found guilty of the murder of a 69-year-old woman in Kilkenny almost 30 years ago.

John Joseph Malone, 53, of Newpark in Kilkenny city, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ann 'Nancy' Smyth at her home on Wolfe Tone Street in the city on 11 September 1987.

Ms Smyth was a widow who lived alone. Her husband had died the previous year and she was described as lonely and had taken to sleeping on a chair in the living room.

She was strangled and beaten before her house was set on fire.

Malone was first interviewed by gardaí a few days after Ms Smyth's body was discovered in her burnt out home.

At first he denied being near her home, but in later garda interviews admitted arguing with her outside the house about a pigeon.

There was no forensic evidence linking him to the murder and he was not charged until after cold case detectives reopened the case in 2012.

Prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane told the jury the killing of Ms Smyth had been callous and violen.

He also sadi the passage of time did not lessen the importance of her death.

A number of witnesses gave evidence at this trial that Malone had confessed to the killing - among them his brother, former sister-in-law and members of the church group of which he was a member.

The jury took three and a half hours to unanimously find him guilty of murder.

Ms Smyth's nephew Desmond Murphy told the court the crime had had a major effect on the family but it was wonderful to have come to this point.

Malone's bail was revoked during the trial after he was seen shouting abuse at the home of an 81-year-old woman who was due to give evidence.

After the verdict, he broke down and hugged members of his family.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told Malone there was only one penalty he could impose and that was imprisonment for life. 

Malone stood as the judge told him he was imposing that penalty upon him, before he was taken away to begin his sentence.