Jozef Puska found guilty of murdering Ashling Murphy

Ashling Murphy’s murder trial has concluded with the jury reaching a unanimous guilty verdict for Jozef Puska.

Jozef Puska, 33, has been found guilty of murdering schoolteacher Ashling Murphy at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly on January 12, 2022. 

A jury at the Central Criminal Court reached a unanimous guilty verdict, following a trial that lasted just over three weeks.

Ms. Murphy, 23, was killed while jogging along a canal path just outside Tullamore. Puska, of Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Tullamore, had pleaded not guilty to her murder.

The 33-year-old Slovakian national now faces a life sentence in prison. Puska stood in the dock as the court clerk read out the verdict, with an interpreter translating beside him.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence that Puska stabbed Ms. Murphy on the right side of her neck 11 times with a knife. The post-mortem found that the wounds damaged her right and left jugular vein, in addition to her voice box and right carotid artery, meaning it’s unlikely that she would have been able to speak or make comprehensible sounds. 

A fingerprint mark and a DNA sample belonging to Puska was taken from a bicycle found near Ashling’s body, the court heard. Male DNA found under Ashling’s fingernails also matched two samples taken from Puska. 

Courtroom drawing of Jozef Puska (left) being questioned by his barrister Michael Bowman SC (right) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin last week. Photograph: Elizabeth Cook

On January 14, 2022 – two days after her death – Puska admitted to killing the 23-year-old school teacher, the jury heard. From his bed in St. James’ Hospital in Dublin, Puska told detectives: “I did it. I murdered. I am the murderer.” 

Puska did not know Ms. Murphy – they had never met nor was there every any connection between them. Evidence given in court suggested two other women, whom Puska followed on the day of the murder, were lucky not to have been attacked by him on that day. 

According to data from her Fitbit watch, Ashling Murphy began her walk along the canal at nine minutes to three in the afternoon and was presumed dead just forty minutes later. 

Despite the strong evidence against him, Puska pleaded not guilty. In Garda custody after his arrest, he said he did not know Ashling, he had never met her, and the first he had seen of her was in a photograph shown to him by Gardaí. 

He said he did not recall what he had said in hospital as he was “after surgery and many tablets”.

Giving evidence during the trial, Puska told a new story in his defence. 

He claimed he had been the victim of an attack and a witness to Ms. Murphy’s murder. He told the jury he was attacked by a masked man who stabbed him and then killed Ms. Murphy. 

He claimed he was “a Good Samaritan who tried to save her life”.

His story was described by prosecuting counsel, Anne Marie Lawlor, as “ludicrous” and “farcical”. 

He has been in custody since January 18 last year, and now faces many more years in jail.

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