‘Evil in the room’ as Puska found guilty of murdering teacher Ashling Murphy

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

David Young
Thursday 09 November 2023 15:54 GMT
Jozef Puska, 33, being questioned by his barrister Michael Bowman SC at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Jozef Puska, 33, being questioned by his barrister Michael Bowman SC at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

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Jozef Puska has been found guilty of murdering schoolteacher Ashling Murphy in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Ms Murphy, 23, was killed while exercising on a canal path in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on the afternoon of January 12 last year.

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

The jury, made up of nine men and three women, reached their unanimous verdict at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after deliberating for more than two hours.

How their child was taken away, to consider what happened here is enough to make you physically ill

Judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt

Members of the Murphy family cried as they hugged each other following the verdict.

Her parents, other relatives and boyfriend were present in the courtroom.

Puska, a father-of-five originally from Slovakia, briefly placed his head in his hands before staring at the floor as members of his family also heard the jury’s decision.

Judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt told the jury: “We have evil in this room.”

Justice Hunt said: “There will be a day of reckoning for Puska.”

The judge said the case dealing with Ms Murphy’s killing was particularly difficult given “the kind of person that she obviously was”.

He said primary school teachers loved children and her GAA top showed her love of sport.

Justice Hunt told the court that to lose a child was “unnatural”.

Speaking of the Murphy 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.”

He said he hoped they would provide a victim-impact statement.

During the trial, the court heard that Ms Murphy had been stabbed 11 times in the neck, and that her neck had been sliced in a 12th wound.

The court heard that while Puska was in hospital in the days after the murder, he told investigating gardai that he had killed Ms Murphy.

Detective Garda Brian Jennings said Puska made the admission after he had been informed he was a “person of interest” in the murder of Ms Murphy.

Relaying the translation of the interpreter, the garda said: “He paused and said he is making an official statement that he is admitting that he committed the murder. ‘I did it. I murdered. I am the murderer’.”

The convicted murderer later said he did not recall making the statement and told gardai he did not “know anything” about the murder while being interviewed after his arrest.

Puska, who admitted lying to gardai 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.

The court heard how a profile of DNA taken from underneath the fingernails of Ms Murphy had matched that of a sample taken from Puska.

The jury also heard evidence from a woman who had been jogging along the canal on January 12, 2022.

She told the court she had seen saw a man in a hedgerow who seemed to be crouched over a person who was kicking out “like she was crying out for help”.

Justice Hunt thanked the jurors for their service and exempted them from further duty for 20 years.

He said the prompt verdict reflected that it was a straightforward case.

He said he agreed with the verdict and was satisfied it was correct.

However, he said there was no doubt the case was “difficult and upsetting”.

Justice Hunt told the jury that everyone was entitled to put forward a defence.

“You can’t make bricks without straw and what (defence barrister Michael) Bowman had in his hands was very poor stuff indeed.”

The judge added: “I’m glad you didn’t waste any more of your valuable time with Puska’s nonsense.”

The jurors were applauded as they exited the chamber as Ms Murphy’s mother held up a framed photograph of her daughter.

The judge said he had asked for silence but said the applause was “understandable”.

Women’s Aid has welcomed the the conviction of Josef Puska for the murder.

In a statement, the charity said the killing “sent a shockwave” through communities in Ireland.

“That this could happen tapped into a visceral feeling that so many girls and women are socialised to feel – that the risk of male violence is everywhere. That nowhere is safe.

“The murder of Ashling Murphy was a shocking example of dangers posed to women and the case put a spotlight on the inherent risk of male violence in society. Every woman should have the right to be safe, both in their own homes and in their communities.”

Sentencing and the reading of any victim impact statement was scheduled for November 17.

There is a mandatory life sentence for murder.

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