‘Absolutely everything being done’ to bring killer to justice, says Minister

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said that “absolutely everything that can be done is being done” to bring the killer of Ashling Murphy to justice.

She was speaking after gardaí renewed their appeal for information as they search for the killer of Ashling Murphy after the man they arrested was eliminated as a suspect.

The man in his 40s who was being questioned in relation to the murder of the 23-year-old teacher was released from Garda custody on Thursday night.

A notice on said Ms Murphy will be “sadly missed by her heartbroken family” which includes her father Raymond, mother Kathleen, brother Cathal, sister Amy, aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family, neighbours and friends.

Ms Murphy was fatally assaulted at 4pm on Wednesday along the canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore in Co Offaly.

Gardaí have renewed their appeal for information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks.

Photograph: An Garda Síochána
Photograph: An Garda Síochána

They are also appealing to anyone who was in the Cappincur/canal walk area of Tullamore before 4pm on Wednesday to make contact with them.

Ms Murphy was from the townland of Blueball, Tullamore. She had previously played camogie for Offaly and was a talented musician. One of three siblings, she was from a family well known on the traditional music scene in the Midlands.

Ms Murphy was killed at Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, on the Grand Canal tow path about 3km east of Tullamore at 4pm. It is understood she was beaten and strangled and suffered a wound.

A number of vigils are due to be held on Friday afternoon at locations across the Republic, including Tullamore Town Park at 4pm, to remember Ms Murphy and to call for an end to male-on-female violence.

A National Women’s Council of Ireland vigil was due to take place outside Dáil Éireann, Dublin, starting from 4pm – around the time that Ms Murphy was killed on Wednesday – for one hour. Vigils were also planned in Galway’s Eyre Square at 6pm, Limerick’s Arthur’s Quay Park at 6pm, Belfast City Hall at 4pm, Derry’s Guildhall steps at 4pm and on Saturday at 9.30am at Cork’s Atlantic Pond.

Books of condolence has been opened for Ms Murphy and are available at Westmeath County Council Civic Offices in Mullingar and Athlone for one week, between 9.30am and 4pm.

In a statement on Thursday night, gardaí confirmed that “the male who was arrested and detained by An Garda Síochána investigating this fatal assault has now been released from this detention.

“This male has been eliminated from Garda enquiries and is no longer a suspect.”

Locals leave flowers near the scene of the murder of Ashling Murphy, on the banks of the Grand Canal, in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Locals leave flowers near the scene of the murder of Ashling Murphy, on the banks of the Grand Canal, in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

‘A woman’s worst nightmare’

The man had been arrested shortly after Ms Murphy was attacked along the canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore at about 4pm on Wednesday.

Speaking to Midlands 103 radio this morning, Ms McEntee said: “I spoke to the Garda Commissioner this morning, in constant contact with him, to make sure that anything they need, anything that is required to carry out this investigation and to find who has done this to Ashling and that they’re brought to justice.”

Ms McEntee declined to discuss any details of the investigation but said: “What’s important here is that the gardaí are able to carry out their investigation.”

She said that the investigation involved “engaging with the people, it’s taking interviews, it’s gathering evidence where possible, it’s forensic evidence where possible, which thankfully over recent years has become central to cases, it’s the renewed call they have made to people to come forward if they have any kind of information…”

She reiterated Garda calls for people to come forward if they had any information about a distinctive mountain bike and said that if anyone had dashcam footage that “perhaps that might have been able to pick up anything happening” that they should come forward to the gardaí.

Picture Ashling Murphy’s student left for her in a memory box at Durrow NS
Picture Ashling Murphy’s student left for her in a memory box at Durrow NS

“People want to know that the right person is caught and the right person is brought to justice,” she said.

She said it was “very difficult to get your head around” the fact that the murder took place in an area where people felt safe, but added that most violence against women was carried out by “someone they know… in her home”.

She said that a “cultural change” was needed to establish a culture of “zero tolerance” towards violence against women.

She described the attack as “a woman’s worst nightmare” and said the killer would be caught. She shared people’s “anger” over the killing, which was committed in a public place “that local people felt was always safe”.

‘Real fear’

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said while the murder of Ms Murphy in Tullamore, Co Offaly, had caused “real fear” across the country, such attacks were “relatively rare” and Ireland was “a safe society”.

The murder investigation was continuing on Thursday night as people in Tullamore expressed their shock and anger at the killing.

The motive for the attack is unclear but gardaí believe it was random and that the killer acted alone. No evidence of a sexual assault has emerged to date.

Ms Murphy had spent the day teaching at Durrow National School just outside Tullamore, where she was the first class teacher. After finishing her work she went to exercise on the canal towpath, a regular routine for her, and was attacked there.

She was still alive when paramedics arrived but efforts to save her were not successful and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

It is understood two women arrived on the scene, on the opposite side of the canal. They witnessed the fatal assault and saw the attacker fleeing. They gave a description of the attacker to gardaí. In a follow-up operation on Wednesday evening the man now cleared of suspicion was arrested and had been held until late on Thursday night.

Durrow National School principal James Hogan told The Irish Times the staff had been “overwhelmed” with all of the messages they had received after Ms Murphy’s murder.

“We’re highly devastated,” he said, adding Ms Murphy was a personal friend as he had grown up playing traditional music with her. “She was fantastic, a tremendous teacher and she had a shining light about her. First class idolised her, the kids are just heartbroken. There’s been a lot of tears here today.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room at Tullamore Garda Station on 057 932 7600, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.

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