Tullamore: Slovakian-born Jozef Puska has been found guilty by a jury of the murder of 23-year-old schoolteacher Ashling Murphy in County Offaly in January of last year. Puska had denied the charges, despite evidence that he had brutally stabbed Murphy 11 times in the right side of the neck, leaving her for dead.
The verdict was reached after the jury, consisting of nine men and three women, deliberated on the case from Wednesday. Resuming their discussions on Thursday at 10:53 a.m., they reached a decision at 2:05 p.m. after more than two hours of careful consideration. The court registrar conveyed the outcome, and all parties were summoned to court for the official announcement, which took place at 2:18 p.m.
Among those present in courtroom number 13 were Miss Murphy’s parents, Ray and Kathleen, her sister Amy, her brother Cathal, and her boyfriend Ryan Casey. It was a sombre moment as the guilty verdict was handed down.
It was revealed that Jozef Puska had been residing in Mullagh, Offaly, with his wife and five children since 2015, and his family was reportedly unaware of the dark secrets he harboured.
Justice Hunt, presiding over the case, expressed agreement with the jury’s decision and commended them for not dwelling on what he referred to as Puska’s ‘absurdity.’ Upon the conclusion of the trial, as the jurors left the courtroom, a standing ovation was given by many, including the Murphy family.
Ashling Murphy, a teacher at the national school in Durrow near her Tullamore residence, was assaulted at 2:51 p.m. on January 12 while jogging along the Grand Canal to the Daingian Road car park. Her lifeless body was discovered in a bush-covered ditch around 3:30 p.m.
Initially denying the crime when apprehended by gardaí on suspicion, Puska later confessed during questioning by Detective Garda Fergus Hogan. Evidence, including Ashling Murphy’s DNA found on her fingernails, the presence of her Falcon Storm mountain bike at the crime scene, and other circumstantial factors, supported the charges against him.
Described by government lawyer Ms. Lore as a ‘boisterous liar,’ Puska’s credibility was further undermined, including false claims about being stabbed in Blanchardstown. The defence did not counter the government lawyer’s arguments, acknowledging the outrageous nature of Puska’s lies.
In his instructions to the jury, Justice Tony Hunt tasked them with determining whether there was a reasonable possibility that Puska was a ‘misguided good Samaritan’ or if the prosecution had convincingly proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A conviction could result in a life sentence for Puska.
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