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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
David Young

Murder of ‘shining light’ Ashling Murphy caused shockwaves

PA Archive

Ashling Murphy was a talented teacher, musician and sportswoman whose life was cut brutally short beside Tullamore’s Grand Canal on a bright mid-winter day.

Wearing the top of her beloved GAA camogie club Kilcormac Killoughey, she had been out exercising that sunny January afternoon and had covered 3.2 km when she was randomly attacked by Jozef Puska, a man she had no past connection with.

The 23-year-old’s fitness tracking app was still running when she was found fatally injured amid thick undergrowth down in a ditch adjacent to the canal path.

A necklace with the name Ashling hung around her neck.

Her smartwatch Fitbit data recorded a sudden erratic movement at 3.21pm, the moment Puska struck.

The death of the 23-year-old sent shockwaves around Ireland and beyond.

The circumstances of her murder, the indiscriminate stabbing of a young woman who was simply out for some exercise, resonated across the globe.

Emotional scenes at vigils in Tullamore, Dublin and other towns and cities on the island of Ireland were replicated in Britain, and as far away as New York and Melbourne as thousands gathered to pay tribute to Ashling and express revulsion at her killing.

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and then Irish premier Micheal Martin were among those who attended the funeral at St Brigid’s Church in the village of Mountbolus in Offaly.

Thousands more gathered in the centre of the village to pay respects as the cortege passed.

Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan told mourners that “a depraved act of violence” that had deprived the young teacher of her life had united the country in grief and support.

“A walk on a mild and sunny afternoon in January should be a happy event, promising the brighter and warmer days of spring and summer,” he said.

“We all know that no individual should die like Ashling and no family should suffer like Ashling’s.”

Children from Durrow National School formed a guard of honour for their much-loved Ms Murphy.

Some held fiddles and tin whistles in remembrance of the skilled traditional Irish musician.

Days earlier, at a candlelit vigil at the Grand Canal, Ashling’s father Ray paid his own poignant tribute to his talented daughter by performing her favourite song on the banjo.

He broke down in tears while playing the final chords of When You Were Sweet Sixteen.

Ray along with Ashling’s mother Kathleen, her sister Amy, brother Cathal and long-time boyfriend Ryan attended the three-week trial at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.

They listened to horrific details of her final moments as Puska sat largely impassively in the dock.

The guilty verdict has delivered a measure of justice to Ashling’s family and loved ones; but their loss is never ending.

A message on images of Ms Murphy that were held aloft by schoolchildren at her funeral still rang as true as the harrowing trial reached conclusion on Thursday afternoon.

“Fly high in the sky, Our shining light.”

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