As Arrest Is Made in Killing of Ashling Murphy, Thousands Mourn Irish School Teacher Slain During Daytime Run
In heartbreaking tribute, Murphy's boyfriend describes Ashling as "the greatest love of his life."
A 31-year-old man has been charged in connection with the murder of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy in Ireland, authorities said. The arrest comes as thousands across the world over mourn the death of the school teacher, who was slain while she was on a run in broad daylight.
Jozef Puska was arrested on Tuesday after being discharged from a hospital in Co. Dublin from injuries the day after Murphy’s death, officials said. He is being held at Cloverhill Prison in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin.
Murphy was brutally attacked along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, about an hour west of Dublin on Wednesday around 4 p.m. Authorities said she was beaten to death, Irish Central reported.
Before the gruesome assault, the primary school teacher had been running on a path known as Fiona’s Way, created in memory of a 25-year-old woman Fiona Pender, who was seven months pregnant when she disappeared in August 1996. Pender has never been found, The Irish Examiner reported.
Puska, 31, of Tullamore, was heckled as he was taken from the car of a national police officer, referred to in Ireland as the Gardaí, to a special sitting of Tullamore District Court on Wednesday, GBN reported.
During Wednesday’s court hearing, Detective Sergeant David Scahill gave evidence of arrest and charge. He told the court that Puska was charged with murder at 7:42 p.m. Scahill said when Puska was read the charge, he replied, “No,” The Irish Independent reported.
While this was taking place, a number of Murphy’s family members stood in court holding up framed photos of the beloved teacher, daughter, sister, friend and talented folk musician.
Eoin Lysaght, Puksa’s lawyer, is applying for legal aid and for an interpreter for Puska, who is a Slovakian national, for future court appearances and consultations.
As the suspect left the Tullamore District Court, large crowds gathered outside shouted at him, The Guardian reported.
A second man who was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of withholding information from police was released without charge, The Independent reported.
Puska’s next hearing date is scheduled for Jan. 26 at Cloverhill District Court.
Puska’s attorney did not respond to Inside Edition Digital’s request for comment.
In the wake of the killing of Murphy, vigils have been held in Ireland and across the world.
On Tuesday, mourners gathered for Murphy's funeral. Thousands flocked to the village of Mountbolus and outside the service held at St. Brigid’s Church, the same church where Murphy had been baptized and given Holy Communion. Murphy’s devastated parents, Raymond and Kathleen, her sister Amy, her brother Cathal and her boyfriend Ryan Casey reportedly placed their hands on the mahogany-colored casket as their heads lowered.
Among the crowd were children from the two local primary schools, including some from the class Murphy taught. Some were stoic and others cried as they each held a single red rose and a copy of Murphy’s gradation photo with the message, “Fly High in the Sky. Our Shining Light." Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin were also in attendance.
“Together we grieve, we pray, we hurt – this is the heavy price we pay for love,” Father Michael Meade said during his homily.
At the request of the Murphy family, musicians brought their instruments to play in honor of Murphy, who was talented and accomplished musician. Readings and prayers of the faithful were also read during the service, The Irish Times reported.
“You have been robbed of your most precious gift – a gift that gave only joy and love, fun and laughter to many," Meade told the family.
“A depraved act of violence which deprived a kind, talented, loved and admired young woman of her life which has since united the country in grief and support,” Bishop Tom Deenihan said of the killing.
A family friend described Murphy to the Sunday World as “a beautiful, confident and vibrant young woman who lived and loved life to the fullest.” Murphy came from a loving and tight-knit family. Her home was filled with traditional Irish music and she was always ready to lend her own musical talents as a fiddle player to services at St. Brigid's Church, the Sunday World reported.
She also was passionate about camogie, an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women. Her involvement at the junior and senior levels was “at the core of who she was,” the family friend said.
In a heartbreaking tribute at her gravesite, Murphy’s boyfriend Ryan called Ashling “the greatest love of my life.”
“She so much more to me than a girlfriend. She was my soul mate; she is my soul mate and she will always be my soul mate," he said. "She was the greatest love of my life. I will cherish the last five years we spent together and I hope that someday, God willing, we can be reunited once more and continue the great plans we had made for each other.
“Goodbye for now but not forever darling, Ashling, you will live in all our hearts and memories," he said.
Tributes to Murphy continued through the week. On Wednesday, dozens of people walked along the canal in Tullamore, marking a week since Murphy’s tragic death. In New York, a walk and run will be held in Central Park on Sunday in memory of Murphy, with proceeds benefiting Women's Aid Ireland.
Amy Brett and Sarah Cosgrave, both of whom are from Co. Mayo and who now live in New York, said they wanted to do something in honor of Murphy.
“Ashling hasn’t left my mind since I heard of her death, so I can’t even imagine what her loved ones and those that knew her are going through. If us organizing this run can help stop a story like this from ever being told again, it will be well worth it," Brett told Irish Central.
Since they publicized the event on social media, they have received an overwhelming response. As of Wednesday, about 250 people registered for the walk.
“The response and support have been unbelievable – not to mention so many businesses came forwarded and donated prizes for the raffle and made donations to Women’s Aid,” Brett said. "The Irish people are a special and rare breed."
The charity event, “Run For Ashling” will begin at the Boat House in Central Park at 4 p.m. on Sunday with a suggested donation of $30 to participate. All proceeds will go towards Women's Aid Ireland, an organization that works to stop domestic violence against women and children.
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