Ashling Murphy trial: Man accused of killing told gardaí 'I am the murderer'

Ashling Murphy trial: Man accused of killing told gardaí 'I am the murderer'
Ashling Murphy. Photo: PA Images

Jozef Puska "admitted to murder" when gardaí investigating the death of Ashling Murphy spoke to him two days after the 23-year-old school teacher was found dead beside the Grand Canal in Tullamore, a barrister has told the trial.

Anne-Marie Lawlor SC opened the case on Tuesday morning for the prosecution before a jury of three women and nine men at the Central Criminal Court.

She said the evidence will show that Ms Murphy suffered 11 stab wounds to the right side of her neck while she was out for a run after work on January 12th last year.

Ms Lawlor said a scientist from the Forensic Science Laboratories will give evidence that Mr Puska's DNA was found under Ms Murphy's fingernails. She said the prosecution will also rely on CCTV which she said shows Mr Puska in Tullamore in the hours before Ms Murphy died, cycling slowly close to two other women.


She said Mr Puska's "distinctive" bicycle was found at the scene where Ms Murphy's body was found. There will also be evidence, she said, that Mr Puska had cuts and scratches on "every exposed part of his body" which she said are consistent with him leaving the scene of the killing through the thick briars that surround the canal. That was "the only way to leave without being apprehended by people on the canal who had come across Ashling's body," Ms Lawlor said.

Ashling Murphy death
Flowers and messages left at a garda checkpoint in Tullamore after Ashling Murphy was killed while jogging along a canal bank. Photo: Dominic McGrath/PA

Two days after Ms Murphy's death, gardaí spoke to Mr Puska at St James's Hospital in Dublin. He was there with stab wounds to his abdomen which he had said he suffered when he was attacked in Blanchardstown the previous evening.

'Conceal the truth'


Mr Puska's claims about being stabbed were "a pack of lies", Ms Lawlor said, designed to conceal the truth of Mr Puska's involvement in murdering Ms Murphy.

While in hospital, Ms Lawlor said Detective Garda Brian Jennings spoke to Mr Puska with the aid of a Slovakian interpreter, who was on loudspeaker on the garda's phone. Ms Lawlor said the interpreter told gardaí that Mr Puska "wants me to translate word for word what he is about to say."

The interpreter then translated "I did it, I murdered, I am the murderer", Ms Lawlor said. Counsel added that Mr Puska continued, "I didn't do it intentionally, I feel guilty and I am sorry."

Ms Lawlor said this was Mr Puska "accepting responsibility for having murdered Ashling Murphy" and she later said that he had "admitted to murder".


In a further exchange with Det Garda Fergus Hogan, Ms Lawlor said the accused told the garda in English that he was "sorry" and that he had never seen "the girl" before. He also said that he had a knife that he used for the chain of his bike and "when she pass, I cut her neck, she panic, I panic. Will I go for 10 years?"

Ms Lawlor said the cause of Ms Murphy's death had not been disseminated and Det Gda Hogan did not know that she had been stabbed in the neck. She added: "The murderer knew, Mr Puska knew, and he told Det Garda Hogan how he affected her death."

Questioned by Gardaí

When Mr Puska was questioned at Tullamore Garda Station following his arrest on January 18th last year, Ms Lawlor said he told Gardaí: "I didn't see her, I don't know her. I never saw her, first on this picture. I have never known her."

Ms Lawlor said the evidence in the case will satisfy the jury that Mr Puska was the person who killed Ashling Murphy. She added that the 11 stab wounds to the right side of her neck leave "no other inference but that the person who did it intended to kill her or cause her serious injury."

Ms Lawlor explained to the jury that her opening speech is not evidence but a "roadmap so you are not sitting there, listening to witness after witness without any idea of how it all knits together." She said the evidence will consist of "different and diverse strands that we say will allow you to come to a verdict of guilty against Mr Puska."

Mr Justice Tony Hunt outlined the obligations a jury has and that the defendant needed to be viewed as protected by the presumption of innocence.

The jury was sworn in on Monday to hear the trial, one year and nine months after Ms Murphy is alleged to have been murdered near the Grand Canal in Tullamore.

Jozef Puska (33), with an address at Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Murphy at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co Offaly on January 12th, 2022.

His trial is continuing before the jury and Mr Justice Hunt.

By Eoin Reynolds

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