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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Matt Mathers

Ashling Murphy: Man jailed for life after murdering Irish schoolteacher jogging by canal


A man has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Irish schoolteacher Ashling Murphy, stabbed to death while jogging along a canal.

Jozef Puska, 33, was found guilty of murdering Ms Murphy, 23, whose random killing sparked widespread shock across Ireland and the UK, with vigils taking place calling for an end to violence against women.

There is a mandatory life sentence for murder.

Puska stabbed Ms Murphy, described by her partner as a woman with “dreams, compassion and respect”, 11 times in the neck as she ran along the banks of the Grand Canal near Tullamore in Co Offaly on 12 January last year.

Ashling Murphy, a primary school teacher in Tullamore, died in January
— (PA Wire)

After the life term was handed down at Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Friday, Judge Tony Hunt said there was only one sentence available, and it was “ richly deserved”. He said Puska’s evidence had been “indescribable” and the “one thing we don’t know about this case is the why”.

The court heard that Puska - of Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore - and Ms Murphy were not known to each other and had never met before he murdered her.

Puska, a Slovak national, appeared for his sentencing dressed in a grey suit and white shirt with no tie. He showed no emotion and made no comment as his life sentence was read out to him through a translator.

Jozef Puska was sentenced to life at Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Friday,
— (PA)

Ryan Casey, Ms Murphy’s partner, described in a victim impact statement how the pair “simply couldn’t get enough of each other” when they first met as teenagers.

He said their relationship was “full with love, trust respect” and “was quite simply heaven on earth”, describing how they they had plans to travel together, to build a house, start a family, and get married.

He said that he ad Ms Murphy, a talented folk musician, had talked about how many kids they would have, and imagined they would be “little hurlers and camogie players and even better – musicians”.

Mr Casey added that it didn’t make sense to him that someone who is “a burden to society can completely and permanently destroy someone… who is the complete opposite”, describing Ms Murphy as “a light with dreams, compassion, respect, a person who contributes to society in the best way possible”.

Ms Murphy’s parents at a previous hearing
— (PA)

Ms Murphy’s mother described how her “heart was ripped” from her body the moment she learned her daughter had been killed.

In a victim impact statement read out in court by a detective Garda (Irish police), she said her “heart broke the moment I heard the bad news Ashling was murdered”.

“There is such a void in our home,” she said.

She said that the actions of Puska “must have consequences” and said “he should never see the light of day again”.

She said that before her daughter left the house, she had begged her not to go along the canal, to which Ms Murphy replied “Ah mum, I’m 23 years old” before giving her mother a hug.

She gave her “a big hug and said ‘I love you, you’re the best mum in the world’ and walked out the door”, the court heard.

Ashling’s mother Kathleen, holds a framed photograph of her daughter
— (PA)

During Puska’s trial, the court heard how he admitted to killing Ms Murphy while speaking to Gardai while receiving treatment at James’s Hospital in Dublin two days after he carried out the murder on 14 January.

Puska initially told medics at the hospital he had been stabbed in a separate incident in Blanchardstown on the outskirts of Dublin.

In the hours before his surgery, Puksa was composed enough “to spin a detailed year” to the medics treating him.

Gardai attended the hospital to investigate and became suspicious of Puska’s story and later connected him to the killing of Ms Murphy.

He later confessed to the murder but claimed he did not mean to hurt the school teacher and did so out of “panic”.

Floral tributes near the Grand Canal in Tullamore
— (PA Archive)

A few days later he claimed he had no recollection of the incident, blaming the medication he had taken after the stabbing.

But a Slovak translator heard the confession. He was praised by the judge for his “clarity and independence” when giving evidence. The investigation found his DNA under Ms Murphy’s fingernails.

The murder sparked vigils across Ireland and the UK, with people showing up to remember Ms Murphy and to call on the Irish government to do more to tackle violence against women.

Thousands of people gathered in the late afternoon in Tullamore, Dublin and Belfast as well as in many other towns on 14 January last year.

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