Pictured: Ashling Murphy's killer Jozef Puska moments before he struck

Pictured: Ashling Murphy’s killer Jozef Puska moments before he struck – as it’s revealed he had stalked up to four women on day he murdered primary teacher and was browsing dating websites

  • READ MORE:  Ashling Murphy achieved so much in her 23 short years

The ‘monster’ who murdered Ashling Murphy was filmed stalking up to four women – including another teacher – in the hours and minutes before he brutally stabbed his victim 11 times in the neck.

Jozef Puska also vowed to kill himself as the successful prosecution case against him closed but he was thwarted by prison officers, it can be reported for the first time today.

His trial was delayed after he threatened to take his own life from behind bars in Dublin’s Cloverhill Prison – a fact hidden from the jury who convicted him yesterday after less than two hours of deliberations. 

CCTV Puska showed him cycling through Tullamore, stalking women and playing with something in his pocket, on the afternoon of January 12, 2022. The timings of the footage, and data from Ashling’s Fitbit smartwatch, helped placed him at the Grand Canal in Tullamore when she was murdered.

It also emerged that Puska, a father-of-five, was a member of multiple dating sites. Police sources in Ireland know that he was trying to meet women before he murdered primary school teacher Ashling, who had gone for a run when he attacked her.

Ashling’s mother Kathleen held a framed picture of her daughter aloft and called her killer a ‘monster’ after Puska was found guilty at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin yesterday. He will be sentenced to life in prison next Friday. 

Judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said Puska would face his ‘day of reckoning’ for stabbing 23-year-old teacher Ms Murphy to death in a case that shocked Ireland and the world.    

Jozef Puska was caught on CCTV stalking the streets of Tullamore, looking for and following other women, before he murdered Ashling Murphy on January 12, 2022

Puska terrified one woman as he followed on his bike (pictured) as she walked her dog. The teacher also believes she may have been the last person to see Ashling alive

The murder of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy sent shockwaves around Ireland and beyond 

Ashling suffered 11 stab wounds at the hands of Puska, 33, who had left his home in Mucklagh, County Offaly. But the court heard that he had followed other women – including one who may have been the last person to see Ashling alive. 

One woman he followed was unaware he was there – and he was playing with something in his pocket.

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Season 2 focuses on the killing of Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher from Ireland.

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CCTV tracked the unemployed Slovakian on his three mile bike ride into Tullamore on January 12, 2022.

At 1.38pm, on the Church Road, he began to cycle slowly behind a woman in a maroon jacket, Beata Borowska. She was utterly unaware of his presence, as he pedalled behind her along a series of pavements and across a car park, one hand in his pocket, peeling away only when she entered the Tesco store six minutes later.

After she went into the store, Puska traversed the car park and made his way back towards Tullamore. Detective Garda David Harney said: ‘You see the bike pulling up. He is reaching into his pockets with both hands… there appears to be something in his hands. That item is ultimately returned to his pocket.’

At 1.57pm, he was again apparently stalking a woman, this time primary school teacher Anne-Marie Kelly. Further clips showed Puska cycling behind Ms Kelly as she walked swiftly with her dog along the path towards Tullamore. Ms Kelly told the court that she was well aware of his presence and was scared by him.

‘I felt someone was very close and I turned around and looked and there was a man cycling a bike very slowly behind me, and he was staring directly at me,’ she said.

She said he continued staring in an intimidating way as he finally passed and cycled away. She said he had distinctive black eyes and eyebrows and appeared foreign.

Ms Kelly said she continued her walk towards the canal and that she had gone to the side of the canal which did not have a tarmac path, only to encounter Puska again. ‘I let my dog off the lead and I noticed him standing to the left of me,’ she said. ‘I made a quick decision, and probably a foolish one, that he would not be able to bring his bike down the grassy part of the canal. I was nervous of the man, but I decided it was too mucky to cycle the bike down that side. I continued to walk down the grassy side of the canal and I noticed he was behind me, walking quite fast then with the bike.’

She said he was only a few metres behind her and had closed the gap to just one foot by the time they passed a man she took to be a farmer, with a van. She said she greeted the farmer and stopped 50m further on, either to tie her shoelace or call her dog.

Puska passed her and then walked very, very slowly ahead, she said. ‘I had to make a decision,’ she continued. ‘I did not want any more awkward encounters. ’

She ran on to Digby Bridge. ‘I did not see him after that,’ she said.

Ms Kelly became visibly emotional as she described how the last person she saw and chatted to while she was walking home was a young, ‘very friendly’ woman in her 20s, who matched Ashling Murphy’s description.

‘I saw a lovely, friendly girl, younger than me, in a peachy coloured hat. I said “Hello” and she asked me about my dog,’ she said. That was the last person I met’.

Because of the Fitbit smartwatch Ashling was wearing, detectives were able to pinpoint the exact timing of the vivacious young woman’s last moments, as she lay bleeding to death on a canal towpath after being stabbed 11 times in the neck.

At 3.21pm her heartbeat suddenly dropped. By 3.31pm it had stopped altogether. She died alone in a muddy, bramble-strewn ditch before paramedics could arrive to save her.

Puska, 33, an unemployed Slovakian immigrant and father of five, bowed his head and looked distressed when the guilty verdict was translated to him by an interpreter. 

He placed his hands in front of his face in a praying position, looking towards his family at the back of the court, before he was taken away by prison officers.

Judge Hunt told the courtroom: ‘There is evil in this room, without a doubt.’ To the jury, he added: ‘Quite literally, you made sure that nobody got away with murder’.

Ashling’s senseless and brutal murder sent shockwaves, not only through the small town of Tullamore, 60 miles west of Dublin, where she was killed, but across Ireland and beyond

Ashling Murphy’s mother Kathleen (holding a photo of Ashling) and sister Amy outside The Criminal Courts of Justice after Jozef Puska was found guilty of the murder of school teacher

Jozef Puska, of Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore, had pleaded not guilty to her murder at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin

Ms Murphy’s sister Amy, brother Cathal and her boyfriend Ryan Casey breathed sighs of relief, and the jurors – some of whom were weeping – were given a round of applause as they left the courtroom.

Outside the court, Ms Murphy’s brother and boyfriend said she was ‘stolen’ from them by a ‘vicious monster’ who must never be allowed to harm another woman.

Cathal Murphy said: ‘Ashling was subject to incomprehensible violence by a predator who was not known to her. While we do not glory in any conviction, we recognise the importance of holding accountable those who would commit such terrible atrocities.

‘The judicial process cannot bring our darling Ashling back, nor can it heal our wounds, but we are relieved that this verdict delivers justice. It is simply imperative that this vicious monster can never harm another woman again.’

He said the family would be forever grateful for the jurors’ patience and resilience during a difficult process.

Mr Casey added: ‘From day one, the outpouring of love and support was felt in abundance.

‘The Irish people, both at a national and international level, have stood in solidarity with our family in mourning the loss of our beautiful and talented Ashling, and to condemn the gender-based brutality with visceral revulsion.

‘Ashling was a vibrant, intelligent and highly motivated young woman, who embodied so many great traits and qualities of the Irish people and its communities.

‘Her life had a huge impact on so many of those around her, and she was the epitome of a perfect role model for every little girl to look up to and strive to be.’

Puska’s family appeared upset and angry at the verdict. His father spoke loudly in Slovakian, while an elderly woman held up a small cross and shook it at people, saying: ‘Everyone in this room, Jesus.’

Judge Hunt said he will sentence Puska on November 17.

Puska had denied killing Ms Murphy as she walked along the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, on January 12 last year. 

He told the court that he was stabbed by a masked stranger, who then turned his knife on Ms Murphy when she walked past on the towpath. Police and a translator told the court that Puska confessed to killing Ms Murphy while he was in hospital. 

‘I did it. I murdered. I am the murderer,’ he said, before saying that he was sorry, and had not intended to.

A court artist’s illustration of Jozef Puska, 33, in the dock at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, where he has been found guilty of killing teacher Ashling Murphy, who was murdered while exercising on January 12, 2022

Ashling dreamed of building her own home with her boyfriend of six years, Ryan Casey, 25

Ireland’s justice minister Helen McEntee paid tribute to Ms Murphy’s family.

She said: ‘None of us can comprehend the grief and loss they carry every day. Their beautiful daughter, sister and friend, a young woman with so much to offer the world, was taken from them.

‘Ashling’s murder shocked us all. It moved us to action, demanding an end to violence against women.’

Women’s Aid also welcomed Puska’s conviction, saying 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.’

Judge Hunt thanked the jury for their service to the community.

He said that despite his many years in the courts, he had not found the case easy to listen to, even though legally he described it as an ‘utterly straightforward’ matter.

‘Thank you for your hard work in this difficult and upsetting case,’ he said.

The judge exempted the jurors from further court duties for 20 years.

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