Jozef Puska, the man convicted of Ashling Murphy’s murder, has no history of other violent crimes and no suspicions have ever been raised against him. It is understood he has never had any contact with gardaí apart from a road accident.
The 33-year-old, a father of five from Slovakia but a long-time resident of the republic, has no criminal record here, and an examination of his phone, internet search history and even other unsolved attacks found no evidence of links to other crimes.
Gardaí carried out extensive investigations to determine whether he could be linked to a number of unsolved crimes in recent years in the areas where he resided. However, none of these investigations revealed any evidence that he may have committed crimes in the past and was simply not discovered.
Garda sources said after the wrong man was initially arrested for the murder of Ms Murphy on the Grand Canal towpath in Cappincur, County Offaly on January 12, 2022, Puska revealed details of the attack, namely that it was a The file, which was publicly available at the time, enabled the investigation to focus on the right suspect again.
When the exact manner of the murder was not yet known, gardaí spoke to Puska while he was undergoing treatment at St James’s Hospital in Dublin. He had sustained stab wounds to his abdomen, which gardaí believed were self-inflicted, in the hours after the murder of Ms Murphy, a state school teacher.
It was during this interview in St James’s, just two days after the murder, that he admitted stabbing a woman in the Tullamore area, after which the investigation focused intensely on him.
His claims, made through an interpreter, confirmed he was the main suspect, a very significant development after Garda’s serious error in arresting the wrong man in the immediate aftermath of the fatal attack. Gardaí later released this man without charge, clearly stating that he had been excluded from the investigation despite initially being treated as a suspect.
Puska came to Ireland about 10 years ago. He originally comes from a village in the Poprad area of Slovakia. He left school early before completing secondary education and worked on construction sites in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and then on to Prague in the Czech Republic.
When he moved to Ireland in 2013, he was married and had three children. He lived first in Dublin and then in Tullamore. While living in Co Offaly he and his wife had two more children. When Ms Murphy was murdered, Puska was living with his wife and children in a five-bedroom house in Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, County Offaly.
When interviewed by gardaí just days after the murder, Puska was asked about his relationship with his family and said: “It’s beautiful, I love my children, they love me, we get along.” He also explained that he Since his slipped disc, he has no longer been able to work in Ireland and is receiving a disability pension.
Puska testified in his own defense during the trial, claiming that another man murdered Ms. Murphy. He said he was in the area on his bicycle at the time and went to help Ms Murphy. He was stabbed by the murderer himself and fled the area because he was stressed. He also said he passed out in a ditch after being stabbed and when he woke up hours later he eventually had a friend take him to his home in Mucklagh. Later that evening he went to his parents’ house in Crumlin, Dublin, arriving just before midnight.
Gardaí believe Puska had suffered some injuries, including scratches, when he arrived at his parents’ home. However, they also believe he stabbed himself in the stomach at his parents’ house. Gardaí believe this was a ploy to cover up his attack on Ms Murphy. They believe his self-inflicted wound was intended to serve as evidence that he too was stabbed by the person who attacked Ms Murphy.
With his wound making him very unwell, an ambulance was called early the next day, January 13, and paramedics and gardaí arrived at the Crumlin estate. At this point, given the nature of his injuries and his links to Tullamore, he became a person of interest to gardaí in the investigation into Ms Murphy’s murder. The man who was mistakenly arrested was still in custody in Tullamore at the time.
While Puska initially claimed he had been stabbed in an incident in Blanchardstown on the same day as the murder, he soon confessed to attacking a woman in Tullamore. He made this confession, which he later could not remember, at St James’s Hospital on January 14th when he spoke to gardaí.
Despite strong and persistent rumors that have circulated since the murder, gardaí have established that Puska and Ms Murphy did not know each other and had never met or crossed paths, even indirectly.
After the murder, persistent rumors circulated that Ms. Murphy knew Puska’s children through her work as a public school teacher and had reported him to authorities over concerns about the child’s welfare. It was widely alleged that Puska planned the attack on Ms Murphy as revenge for her alerting the authorities, none of which was true.
Instead, gardaí believe Puska intended to attack a woman on the day he killed Ms Murphy. He had followed other women in the Tullamore area that same day before eventually spotting Ms Murphy jogging along a stretch of the Grand Canal just outside the city.
However, when he intervened to attack her, she fought back and Puska killed her. He carried a knife that day and stabbed Ms Murphy 11 times in the neck. Puska’s DNA was found under Ms Murphy’s fingernails, which was taken as evidence the victim was fighting for her life.