Gardaí have vowed that ‘no stone will be left unturned’ as a detailed forensic examination of the scene where Ashling Murphy violently lost her life is underway.
Offaly primary school teacher Ashling Murphy (23) was murdered yesterday in a random attack while exercising along a popular Tullamore canal walkway in broad daylight.
Gardaí are now “urgently” seeking witnesses who saw teacher Ashling Murphy and her killer in the moments before she was attacked and murdered.
Gardaí are appealing to the public for information about a green and yellow mountain bike.
The bike in question is a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks.
In a press conference this morning Supt Eamonn Curley from Tullamore Garda Station said that at the scene Ms Murphy was found with serious injuries.
Medical attention was provided but Ms Murphy did not survive the injuries, which were consistent with an assault.
More than 50 gardaí are assigned to the investigation based at an incident room at Tullamore Garda Station.
“No stone will be left unturned in bringing the perpetrator of this crime to justice,” Supt Curley said.
He added that the belief is that the crime was committed by one male who acted alone.
“Any information you have, however insignificant you think it may be, we need to hear from you,” said Supt Curley.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ashling’s family at this stage,” he added.
Officers believe she was beaten to death by a man on a canal bank in Tullamore, Co Offaly, in the afternoon.
A suspect in the case – a Romanian national aged in his 40s who has been living locally – is being questioned on suspicion of her murder.
It is understood the suspect has an alcohol problem and has been living in the area for 20 years.
Senior sources say the case is being classified as murder and gardaí are satisfied they did not know each other before the violent events of yesterday evening.
The suspect in custody availed of his rest period last night meaning that he can be questioned until at least late tonight.
Ms Murphy had been jogging along a stretch of the Grand Canal, known as Fiona’s Way in memory of missing woman Fiona Pender.
The area has become extremely popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists in recent years, and even more so since the onset of Covid restrictions.
“We have some witnesses but we are urgently seeking more,” a source said.
"This man is in custody but more people who saw elements of the attack, or either the victim or the suspect before or after this terrible crime, are now being urgently sought, as we continue to question the suspect.”
Two women witnessed part of the attack, and saw the suspect flee. He was arrested shortly after the incident.
“We are building a case but the more witnesses we have the better chance we have of getting a swift conclusion to this crime. That is our major focus today, speaking to anyone who saw either the victim or the suspect along the canal either before or after the attack,” the source added.
It is understood the first-class primary school teacher was working at her school “just an hour” before she was murdered.
Gardaí were this morning visiting the victim’s workplace, Scoil Naomh Colmcille, in Durrow in Tullamore, to speak with staff and offer support.
“This young woman’s first class students, very young children, are today wondering why their teacher is not there and will never be back,” the source added.
“Gardaí are liaising with the school as the entire community tries to come to terms with this tragedy.”
And just after 9.30am, a team from the Garda Water Unit arrived at Digby Bridge on the Grand Canal to begin a search of the waterway beside where the fatal attack occurred.
A post mortem is due to take place on her body today and is expected to last for five hours.
Ms Murphy comes from a highly respected family who live outside Tullamore and are well known in music circles.
At Digby Bridge on the canal a local young woman who knew Ashling said she was out walking herself yesterday evening when she came across the gardaí and emergency services.
“I only live along the canal myself and I was coming up for a walk yesterday evening about at half past four. I was turned away by the guards just coming up to the first lock and they had it all taped off and there was squad cars and ambulances,” she said.
"It’s something that's happening a lot around the town around the country.
"And then a sort of panic set in and you started thinking ‘oh God, is it someone I know? who is it? what's going on? Are they okay?
"The guards weren't letting anyone back down to canal and I went home and learned that there was a young girl after being attacked and she was in her 20s.
“Then you’re thinking ‘I live around the area. I know loads of people who come down here for a run and walk’, and then the name cane out and you're just heartbroken.”
She said everyone in the area is in shock.
"The canal path is called Fiona's Way after Fiona Pender, and you’d think after something so serious like that happening, that there would be an end to this.
"That people could go for a walk without having to think about what's behind their shoulder? What's the next step ahead? Is there someone going to be there? Where's the nearest point if I need help? Have I my phone on me? Can I ring someone?”
“You shouldn't have to be on the phone talking to someone when you're walking home or you're walking with your dog.
"You should be able to walk in peace without any worry. It’s out of order and something needs to be done. It needs to be stopped.
"You can't go for a walk without being whistled at or without someone shouting at you, or coming across someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you're worried when you're coming home that you're going to get home safe. You’re not guaranteed that, and that's the scary thing.”
The young woman spoke of Ashling and how she remembers her.
“She was the year above me in school and we played on the school camogie team together.
"I know her from just being around town and I know a lot of her friends would have mutual friends.
"She was into her traditional music and sports. She was a lovely girl. Every time you'd walk by her she'd greet you with a smile and she'd always say hello.
"And she was into her traditional music. She played the fiddle. Ashling was just was so nice for everyone. Everyone got along with her. I don't think anyone had a bad word to say about her and I don’t know how can go into a school full of kids and tell them your teacher went for a jog and now she's dead,” she said.
“My condolences go to her family and to her friends and her nearest and dearest,” she added.
The President of Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick, Eugene Wall, said the entire college community is “heartbroken” at the death of Ashling, a recent graduate of the college.
“The entire MIC community is heartbroken and shocked to the core to hear of the tragic and senseless killing of Ashling Murphy who graduated from MIC only three months ago. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family, friends, colleagues and pupils. RIP Ashling,” Mr Wall said.
Local TD Barry Cowen said the news was “shattering and horrific” for the area.
“Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the young woman’s family,” he said.
Local Councillor Declan Harvey extended his sympathy to Ashling’s family this morning on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.
“It’s unthinkable what happened yesterday, it’s a route that we walk, myself and my wife and my family. During the pandemic it was a saving grace for us all, it kept us all sane,” he said.
“I want to extend my sympathies to Ashling’s father, mother and all her extended family. I’m devastated. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about it.”
Cllr Harvey said he is “lost for words”.
“That young lady went jogging, what she did regularly I believe. I’m lost for words. Her father plays in a popular group called Best Foot Forward.
"Ashling during the Christmas period there, we have a concert in O’Connors’ Square and Ashling brought in her [school] kids to sing a few carols for us on stage.
“Highlights like that in their life and you remember those things, and then you see what happened yesterday.
"I really hope that whoever did this is caught and does his time. The people in Tullamore are the best in world but after yesterday people will be nervous to go down the canal again," he said.
Cllr Harvey said the route along the canal is “very popular” in the local community and is used regularly.
“There’s no lighting on it, it’s grand and bright now. It’s lovely and peaceful and just clears your head. It’s a very popular route that everybody takes.
"People walk with their kids and their dogs."
Local councillor Tony McCormack, who lives nearby, said the canal bank is always well populated during the day with walkers, runners and cyclists.
“It’s scary. It’s horrendous to think something like that can happen in your own backyard. I feel so sorry for that young woman’s family. Imagine her getting up to go to work this morning or whatever, and then going for a run – and for that to happen to her,” he said.
“My heart goes out to the family. It’s a shock to have to put up with this, for any family. I don’t know how they are going to get through it. I can’t imagine a family being in that situation, it’s just horrendous. That poor lady, may she rest in peace.”
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) today also expressed condolences to her family.
“We offer out sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy, her colleagues and pupils at Scoil Naomh Colmcille and all who knew her,” it said in a statement.
“For such an appalling tragedy to befall a young woman, who only recently began her teaching career, adds to the profound sense of loss and grief felt”.
Junior minister Josepha Madigan tweeted her shock at the incident and her condolences to Ms Murphy’s family .
“A young woman can’t even go for a run along a canal pathway at four o’clock in the middle of the day – only to be attacked and murdered. Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen.”
A young woman can’t even go for a run along a canal pathway- at four o’clock in the middle of the day -only to be attacked & murdered 😰Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen!— Josepha Madigan ⚖️✨ (@josephamadigan) January 12, 2022
Justice Minister Helen McEntee tweeted: “My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community.
"Please anyone with information, come forward to An Garda Síochána. The gardaí will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.”
My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community.— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) January 12, 2022
Please anyone with information, come forward to An Garda Síochána. The Gardai will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the killing as “horrific”.
“A young woman's life brutally stolen. In broad daylight. In a busy place. A nightmare for a family, friends and community,” she said.
Women’s Aid, a national frontline organisation working to prevent and address the impact of domestic violence and abuse, has called for zero tolerance of all forms of male violence against women in the wake of the violent killing.
Women’s Aid, who has kept a record of the violent deaths of women in Ireland since 1996, says that 244 women have now been killed since then with 87pc of resolved cases being perpetrated by a man known to the victim. A total of 13pc of perpetrators were strangers.
Speaking this morning, Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid said; “The killing of women is the extreme end of a spectrum of violence and abuse that women in Ireland and across the world experience every day.
"The appalling murder of Ashling Murphy, a young woman in Co. Offaly, yesterday is a shocking example of the dangers posed to women by violent men. We offer our sincere condolences to Ashling’s family, friends and community.”
Gardaí appealed for anyone who was in the Cappincur/canal walk area of Tullamore before 4pm yesterday to make contact with them.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Tullamore garda station on 057 932 7600, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any garda station.