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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
By Grinne N. Aodha

Puska spun ‘foul and contemptible lies’ about Ashling Murphy’s death, court told

PA Wire

The man accused of murdering Ashling Murphy has “spun” a story of “foul and contemptible” lies for the sake of the jury, the Dublin Central Criminal Court has heard.

After three weeks of evidence in the trial of Jozef Puska, the defence and prosecuting barristers addressed the jury to give their closing statements.

Prosecuting barrister Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said that the evidence against Puska was “overwhelming” and “compelling”, and urged the jury not to be “drawn into the weeds”.

Defence barrister Michael Bowman SC told the jury that lies were not necessarily evidence of guilt, and said the details of the case were “not as straightforward as the prosecution would have you believe”.

Ms Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher, was killed while exercising on a canal path in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at about 3.30pm on January 12 last year.

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

During three weeks of evidence, the jury was shown maps of the Tullamore area; CCTV footage taken from Garda cameras, businesses and schools in the town; forensic evidence; data from Ms Murphy’s Fitbit smartwatch and evidence from witnesses who were along the canal.

Giving evidence from the witness box last week, Puska said he was “trying to help” Ms Murphy after she had allegedly been attacked by another man, who he said had also attacked and stabbed him.

The court had also heard evidence from gardai who said Puska admitted killing Ms Murphy while receiving treatment at St James’s Hospital in Dublin on January 14.

Addressing the jury of nine men and three women, Ms Lawlor said that usually when deciding what has happened in a case, “you’re holding light into a crevice”, but this case heard that there was a confession by Puska.

“Mr Puska confessed that he killed Ashling Murphy, and he did that because that’s what he did. He did kill her,” she told the court.

She said that the court had heard evidence that Ms Murphy had likely defensive wounds as she tried to save herself.

Comparing it to extracting a needle from a haystack, Ms Lawlor said the DNA examined by forensic experts matched to Puska.

“Ashling ended up being the investigator in her own murder,” she told the court.

Ms Lawlor said that according to Puska, there was a “Covid-compliant killer” along the canal, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, who nobody has seen since.

She told the jury that Puska told “contemptible lies that he was trying to save the life of Ashling Murphy”.

“He killed her brutally, he killed her by inflicting substantial wounds on her,” the court heard.

She said that Puska “spun” a story of “lies and mistruths, some of which I say are foul and contemptible in their nature”.

She said that this was done in the hope of preventing the jury from “arriving at what I say is the only rational conclusion in this case, that he murdered Ashling Murphy”.

Mr Bowman said that Puska had done himself “no favours” in the actions he took in the wake of Ms Murphy’s death, which he said did “nothing but heap suspicion on him”.

He pointed to the evidence heard in court that Puska had suggested his clothes from that day be destroyed, and said if Puska had “spun a tapestry of lies, why would he say that?”

Mr Bowman argued that the jury needed to be careful not to assume that lies are indicative of a person’s guilt, and said that lies can attract suspicion, but are of no value otherwise to the trial.

He said that people can lie for many reasons, and that innocent people can do it because they’re afraid no one will believe them, because they’re embarrassed, panicked or confused.

Mr Bowman added: “Can you really push Mr Puska’s version aside that easily?”

He referenced the evidence of witness Rostislav ‘Peter’ Pokuta, a Tullamore bus driver who said he had not told gardai “the whole story” of having seen Puska on the night of Ms Murphy’s death because of the “ugly” atmosphere at the time and fear of what would happen to his family.

“It’s not as straightforward as the prosecution would have you believe,” Mr Bowman said.

He warned the jury to be careful in terms of arriving at a position with “a closed mind”.

He raised the case of a man who had emailed the Garda Press Office on January 17 admitting to Ms Murphy’s murder.

“To who it may concern, I am the person responsible for Ashling’s murder,” the email said, read out to the court by Mr Bowman. “I am so sorry.”

Mr Bowman said when the man was asked about it by gardai, he said he didn’t remember it until he was shown it, and compared this to Puska’s evidence that he couldn’t remember his confession.

Addressing his confession, Mr Bowman referenced evidence from a UK-based consultant who had argued that the conditions that could affect a patient’s fitness to be questioned “must be considered unless and until they are excluded”.

Mr Bowman put it to the jury that if you do not speak the language and when no one you know is present, “how is anyone going to pick up that you’re not behaving normally”, if they don’t speak your language or know how you normally behave?

In beginning his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that the facts of the case were in their hands.

Reading from a Supreme Court ruling, Mr Hunt said that the presumption of innocence means having “an open mind that assumes nothing against the accused”.

But he added that “a proof beyond reasonable doubt” did not stretch to “far-fetched” scenarios, and that “a reasonable doubt is not an invented doubt”.

He emphasised that there was no connection of any kind between Ms Murphy and Puska.

Puska appeared in court wearing a grey suit jacket and open-neck shirt, seated alongside a translator.

The family of Ashling Murphy were also seated in court, as they have been during the course of the trial.

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