Ashling Murphy's killer Jozef Puska sentenced to life for murder
Ashling Murphy’s killer Jozef Puska is sentenced to life in prison for murdering Irish primary school teacher
- Jozef Puska, 33, was found guilty of murdering Ms Murphy by jury last week
The ‘vicious monster’ who murdered schoolteacher Ashling Murphy has today been jailed for life after he was found guilty of stabbing her to death in Ireland last year.
Ms Murphy, 23, was repeatedly stabbed by 33-year-old Jozef Puska as she went jogging on a canal path in the County Offaly town of Tullamore on the afternoon of January 12, 2022.
Puska, a married father of five who came to Ireland from Slovakia in 2015, had pleaded not guilty to her murder. But a jury of nine men and three women quickly reached a unanimous guilty verdict at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin last week.
During the sentencing hearing, Ms Murphy’s heartbroken mother said her daughter was ‘one in a million’ and her murder has left ‘such a void in our home, I can’t bear it.’ She said Puska should never see the light of day again.
Her devastated boyfriend of seven years Ryan Casey turned to Puska during the emotional hearing as he said: ‘Because of you, I will never get to marry my soulmate’.
Following his guilty verdict last Thursday, Ms Murphy’s heartbroken family stood outside the court, overcome with emotion after listening to three weeks of harrowing evidence.
Jozef Puska, of Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore, had pleaded not guilty to her murder at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. He was jailed today for life
Ashling Murphy, 23, was killed by 33-year-old Jozef Puska in the County Offaly town of Tullamore while exercising on a canal path on the afternoon of January 12, 2022
Following his guilty verdict last Thursday, Ms Murphy’s heartbroken family (her brother Cathal, centre, mother Kathleen left, father Raymond, right) stood outside the court, overcome with emotion after listening to three weeks of harrowing evidence
Her brother Cathal, shaking with emotion and standing in front of his tearful parents Kathleen and Raymond, said at the time his ‘darling’ sister was subjected to ‘incomprehensible violence by a predator’.
He said it was ‘imperative’ that Puska, who he described as a ‘vicious monster’, ‘can never harm another woman again’.
Ms Murphy’s boyfriend Ryan Casey choked back tears after the guilty verdict was reached last week as he described the school teacher as a ‘vibrant, intelligent and highly-motivated woman’ who was a ‘shining light in their community’.
After Puska was found guilty, the judge, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, told the jury: ‘We have evil in this room.’
Cathal, flanked by his parents and sister Amy, said last week that while the judicial process ‘can’t bring our darling Ashling back nor heal our wounds’ his family were ‘relieved’ by the guilty verdict.
He said: ‘We would like to thank the members of the jury for reaching this verdict. Sitting through the harrowing evidence of this trial was not an easy task and we’ll be forever grateful for their patience and resilience throughout this incredibly difficult process.
‘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.’
The brother of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy, Cathal (left), her sister Amy (centre) and boyfriend Ryan Casey (right) condemned ‘predator’ Jozef Puska after he was found guilty of murder last week. He was sentenced to life in prison today
The death of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy sent shockwaves around Ireland and beyond
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During the trial, the jury heard more than three weeks of evidence, which the prosecution described as ‘overwhelming’.
They were told that Puska had stabbed the young woman 11 times with a knife on the right side of her neck. The stab wounds damaged her right and left jugular veins, her voice box and her right carotid artery, a post-mortem examination found.
Her wounds caused acute blood loss and stopped her heart.
Ms Murphy’s boyfriend described her as ‘beautiful and talented’.
Speaking on behalf of the Murphy family, Mr Casey 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.’
Wearing the top of her beloved GAA camogie club Kilcormac Killoughey, Ms Murphy had been out exercising on the sunny January afternoon and had covered 2 miles when she was randomly attacked by Puska, a man she had no connection with.
The 23-year-old’s fitness tracking app was still on when she was found fatally injured in thick undergrowth in a ditch by the canal path.
A necklace with the name Ashling hung around her neck.
The mother of murdered teacher Ashling Murphy, Kathleen, stands outside court as her son, Cathal, issues a statement to the media
Heartbroken Kathleen Murphy clutches a framed picture of her daughter, who was killed on January 12 last year
Ms Murphy’s heartbroken family stood outside the court following the verdict, overcome with emotion after listening to three weeks of harrowing evidence
During the trial, the jury heard more than three weeks of evidence, which the prosecution described as ‘overwhelming’
Touching photos of Ashling from through her life were displayed by her family to mourners at her funeral
A map showing where Ms Murphy’s body was found along the Grand Canal way, also known as Fiona’s Way. The route is named in memory of missing woman Fiona Pender – who is commemorated to her in a monument in Tullamore
Her Fitbit smartwatch recorded a sudden erratic movement at 3.21pm, the moment Puska struck.
Forensic teams lifted a fingerprint and a DNA sample belonging to Puska from a bicycle found near Ms Murphy’s body.
Male DNA found under her fingernails also matched two samples taken from the 33-year-old killer.
The trial also heard that on January 14, two days after Ms Murphy was found dead, Puska admitted to killing her from his hospital bed in Dublin.
He had been brought to the hospital on January 13 with injuries to his stomach which he claimed were a result of being stabbed in Blanchardstown the day before by a man – a claim that he later admitted was a lie.
He underwent exploratory surgery but his wounds were not found to be serious.
According to Detective Sergeant Brian Jennings, Puska made his admission at 6pm the following day through an interpreter after being told he was a ‘person of interest’ in a murder investigation.
DS Jennings said Puska told him: ‘I did it. I murdered. I am the murderer.’
According to The Irish Times, Detective Garda Fergus Hogan said Puska told him minutes later in English: ‘I’m sorry, I see girl I never see before. Knife I use for chain. When she pass, I cut her, I cut her neck, she panic, I panic.’
The trial also heard that on January 14, two days after Ms Murphy was found dead, Puska admitted to killing her from his hospital bed in Dublin. Pictured: Ms Murphy as a child
Ashling’s sister Amy grips her father’s hand following the verdict last week outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin
Kathleen Murphy, Ashling’s mother, holds a framed photograph of her daughter at the court
Cathal Murphy (left), his sister Amy (centre) and Ashling’s boyfriend Ryan Casey (right) outside the court after Puska was found guilty of murdering the 23-year-old
The prosecution has argued that the man seen in the CCTV footage is Jozef Puska, 33, who was charged with the murder of Ms Murphy. (Pictured: CCTV still)
A court artist’s illustration of Jozef Puska, 33, (left) being questioned by his barrister Michael Bowman SC (right) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, where he has been found guilty of killing teacher Ashling Murphy, who was murdered while exercising on January 12, 2022
Mr Hogan said the killer was upset and crying and said he was sorry, asking: ‘Will I go for ten years?’ He then pointed to his abdomen and told him: ‘I did this.’
Puska later said he did not recall making the statement and told police he did not ‘know anything’ about the murder while being interviewed.
The Slovakian, who admitted lying to officers 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 on Ms Murphy, as Puska claimed.
The jury also heard evidence from a woman who had been jogging along the canal on January 12, 2022, at the same time as Ms Murphy.
She told the court she had seen a man in a hedgerow who seemed to be crouched over a person who was kicking out ‘like she was crying out for help’.
Last week, the judge thanked the jury for their service after they delivered their guilty verdict, saying the killing was particularly difficult given ‘the kind of person that she obviously was’.
The death of the 23-year-old sent shockwaves around Ireland and beyond.
The jury also heard evidence from a woman who had been jogging along the canal on January 12, 2022, at the same time as Ms Murphy. Pictured: Family photos of Ashling released on her funeral
Pictured: Photos of Ashling from through the years that her family displayed to mourners at her funeral
The death of the 23-year-old sent shockwaves around Ireland and beyond
The indiscriminate stabbing of a young woman who was simply out for some exercise resonated across the globe
The judge said the primary school teacher loved children and her GAA top showed her love of sport, particularly camogie, an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women
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 and express revulsion at the killing.
The judge said the primary school teacher loved children and her GAA top showed her love of sport, particularly camogie, an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women.
He told the court that to lose a child was unnatural. Speaking of her 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.’
The jury were applauded as they exited the chamber as Ms Murphy’s mother – who was dressed in black – held up a framed photograph of her daughter.
The judge said he had asked for silence but said the applause was ‘understandable’.
He said the prompt verdict reflected that it was a straightforward case.
He added that he agreed with the verdict and was satisfied it was correct, adding that he was glad the jury didn’t spent any more time than they needed to consider Mr Puska’s ‘nonsense’.
‘Quite literally, you made sure nobody got away with murder,’ the judge said.
However, he said there was no doubt the case was ‘difficult and upsetting’.
Ms Murphy’s parents Kathleen and Ray, 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.
Schoolchildren at Ms Ashling’s funeral held photos of her bearing the words: ‘Fly high in the sky, our shining light.’
Forensic teams search the murder scene where 23-year-old Ashling Murphy was killed on the Cappincur Canal towpath while out jogging in Tullamore, Ireland
Search: A Garda team at the crime scene at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co. Offaly
Mourners walked beside the hearse carrying the coffin of Ashling Murphy as the cortege arrived for her funeral at St Brigid’s Church on January 18, 2022
Pupils from Ashling Murphy’s class hold a photographs and a red roses during her funeral
Candles at a vigil in memory of Ms Murphy in Tullamore town park
Flowers and a note as a tribute for 23-year-old teacher Ms Murphy were laid outside Durrow National School where she taught in Tullamore, Ireland
Hundreds of people attended the vigil on January 14, 2022
Jozef Puska (grey top centre) is led to a police van after appearing at Tullamore District Court on December 20, 2022
Murder of ‘shining light’ Ashling Murphy caused shockwaves
Ashling Murphy was a talented teacher and musician 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 3.2km when she was randomly attacked by Jozef Puska.
She had no past connection with him.
The 23-year-old’s fitness tracking app was still running when she was found fatally injured in thick undergrowth in a ditch by the canal path. A necklace with the name Ashling hung around her neck.
Her Fitbit smartwatch 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 indiscriminate stabbing of a young woman who was simply out for some exercise resonated across the globe, with vigils held as far away as New York City and Melbourne.
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 both deprived the young teacher of her life and 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,’ he said.
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, and 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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