Ireland

Family says ‘monster’ subjected Ashling Murphy to incomprehensible violence

The mother of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy, Kathleen (centre), listens as her son Cathal gives a statement to the media (Brian Lawless/PA)
The mother of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy, Kathleen (centre), listens as her son Cathal gives a statement to the media (Brian Lawless/PA)

The family of murdered Irish schoolteacher Ashling Murphy has said she was subjected to incomprehensible violence by a “vicious monster”.

It comes after Jozef Puska was found guilty of murdering Ms Murphy.

Ms Murphy, 23, was killed while exercising on a canal path in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on the afternoon of January 12 last year.

Jozef Puska court case
Ashling Murphy’s brother Cathal (left) and boyfriend Ryan Casey paid tribute to the schoolteacher, calling her ‘beautiful’ and ‘talented’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

Puska, 33, of Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore, had pleaded not guilty to her murder.

The jury, made up of nine men and three women, reached their unanimous verdict at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after deliberating for more than two hours.

Her brother, Cathal Murphy, said that Puska had committed a “terrible atrocity”.

Members of the Murphy family cried as they hugged each other following the verdict.

Speaking to the media, Mr Murphy said: “Ashling was subjected to incomprehensible violence by a predator who was not known to her.

“While we do not glory in any conviction, we recognise the importance of holding accountable those who would commit such terrible atrocities.

“The judicial process cannot bring our darling Ashling back, nor can it heal our wounds, but we are relieved that this verdict delivers justice.

“It is simply imperative that this vicious monster can never harm another woman again.”

Ms Murphy’s boyfriend Ryan Casey thanked police, the prosecution and the Irish public for support the family received.

Missing person Tina Satchwell case
Justice minister Helen McEntee said Ashling’s murder was a shock, moving people to action and demanding an end to violence against women (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking also on behalf of the Murphy family, he said: “From day one, the outpouring of love and support was felt in abundance from the Irish people both at a national and international level as they stood in solidarity with our family to both mourn the loss of our beautiful, talented Ashling and to condemn gender-based brutality with visceral repulsion.

“Ashley was was a vibrant, intelligent and highly-motivated woman who embodied so many great traits and qualities of the Irish people and its communities.

“Her life had a huge impact on so many of those around her and she was the epitome of a perfect role model for every little girl to look up to and strive to be.

“She was not only an integral part of our family, but she was also a huge shining light in our community.”

Ireland’s justice minister Helen McEntee paid tribute to Ms Murphy’s family.

“None of us can comprehend the grief and loss they carry every day. Their beautiful daughter, sister and friend, a young woman with so much to offer the world, was taken from them.

“Ashling’s murder shocked us all. It moved us to action, demanding an end to violence against women.”

Jozef Puska court case
Jozef Puska was found guilty of Ashling Murphy’s murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Puska, a father-of-five originally from Slovakia, briefly placed his head in his hands following the verdict before staring at the floor as members of his family also heard the jury’s decision.

Judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt told the jury: “We have evil in this room.”

Justice Hunt said: “There will be a day of reckoning for Puska.”

He told the court that to lose a child was “unnatural”.

Speaking of the Murphy family, he said: “Their position is unenviable. How their child was taken away, to consider what happened here is enough to make you physically ill.”

He said he hoped they would provide a victim-impact statement tot he court.

Ashling Murphy death
Floral tributes laid in memory of Ashling Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

During the trial, the court heard that Ms Murphy had been stabbed 11 times in the neck, and that her neck had been sliced in a 12th wound.

The court heard that while Puska was in hospital in the days after the murder, he told investigating gardai that he had killed Ms Murphy.

Detective Garda Brian Jennings said Puska made the admission after he had been informed he was a “person of interest” in the murder of Ms Murphy.

Relaying the translation of the interpreter, the garda said: “He paused and said he is making an official statement that he is admitting that he committed the murder. ‘I did it. I murdered. I am the murderer’.”

Jozef Puska court case
Prosecuting barrister Anne-Marie Lawlor’s case was that there was no other man involved in the killing (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The convicted murderer later said he did not recall making the statement and told gardai he did not “know anything” about the murder while being interviewed after his arrest.

Puska, who admitted lying to gardai on multiple occasions, had told the court that he had tried to help Ms Murphy after they were both attacked by a masked man.

It was prosecuting barrister Anne-Marie Lawlor’s case that there was no other man involved in the killing.

The court heard how a profile of DNA taken from underneath the fingernails of Ms Murphy had matched that of a sample taken from Puska.

Ashling Murphy death
The judge said ‘what defence barrister Michael Bowman had in his hands was very poor stuff indeed’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

The jury also heard evidence from a woman who had been jogging along the canal on January 12, 2022.

She told the court she had seen saw a man in a hedgerow who seemed to be crouched over a person who was kicking out “like she was crying out for help”.

Justice Hunt thanked the jurors for their service and exempted them from further duty for 20 years.

He said the prompt verdict reflected that it was a straightforward case.

He said he agreed with the verdict and was satisfied it was correct.

However, he said there was no doubt the case was “difficult and upsetting”.

Justice Hunt told the jury that everyone was entitled to put forward a defence.

“You can’t make bricks without straw and what (defence barrister Michael) Bowman had in his hands was very poor stuff indeed.”

The judge added: “I’m glad you didn’t waste any more of your valuable time with Puska’s nonsense.”

The jurors were applauded as they exited the chamber as Ms Murphy’s mother held up a framed photograph of her daughter.

The judge said he had asked for silence but said the applause was “understandable”.

Women’s Aid has welcomed the the conviction of Josef Puska for the murder.

In a statement, the charity said the killing “sent a shockwave” through communities in Ireland.

“That this could happen tapped into a visceral feeling that so many girls and women are socialised to feel – that the risk of male violence is everywhere. That nowhere is safe.

“The murder of Ashling Murphy was a shocking example of dangers posed to women and the case put a spotlight on the inherent risk of male violence in society. Every woman should have the right to be safe, both in their own homes and in their communities.”

Sentencing and the reading of any victim impact statement was scheduled for November 17.

There is a mandatory life sentence for murder.