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Ashling Murphy: Chief suspect being questioned by gardai in Tullamore after hospital release

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Detectives were last night questioning an Eastern European man over the murder of ashling Murphy after arresting him in hospital.

The chief suspect in the case, who is a father of five, had been in St James’s Hospital since admitting himself for treatment with wounds last Thursday.

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gardai confirmed the man in his 30s is being held on suspicion of murder under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 and can be held for 24 hours.

Specialist investigators from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation swooped at around 11.30am yesterday after being given the go-ahead by doctors. At the same time, tragic primary school teacher Ashling’s funeral was taking place at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, outside Tullamore in Co Offaly.

She was brutally assaulted, strangled and murdered as she went for a run along the canal bank in the town at 4pm after she left work at Durrow National School.

Once arrested at St James’s – where officers had been keeping a close watch on him – the suspect was put into an unmarked dark Hyundai Tucson flanked by plain clothes officers and was escorted to Tullamore Garda station, where they arrived just after 12.25pm.

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A senior garda then gave approval to take the man’s fingerprints, palm prints and DNA.

Investigators may have also obtained a blood sample under warrant from St James’s. Examination of the samples was being expedited after they were brought to Garda headquarters last night.

Once he had a solicitor appointed, questioning got under way, with the suspect also entitled to breaks, including eight hours to sleep.

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Detectives have insisted the DNA element of the investigation is the crucial element.

A source said: “There are various samples of DNA which have been recovered as part of this investigation which is central to it at this stage.

“The samples will be key to including or excluding this individual.”

DNA has been obtained from the remains of Ashling, after she fought for her life. Forensic evidence was also obtained from the distinctive Falcon Storm bike, which a man was seen on in the town before the murder.

The suspect first came to the attention of the gardai when he admitted himself into St James’s Hospital last Thursday with suspected stab wounds.

Medics originally thought he was the victim of a suspected knife attack in Blanchardstown, West Dublin, which allegedly occurred on the same day as the murder in Tullamore.

But it quickly became apparent the extent of his injuries went beyond the seriousness of the Blanchardstown incident.

A call was then made to Tullamore to make cops aware. At that time, a 40-year-old was in custody being questioned on suspicion of murder.

But by Thursday night, the Romanian national was ruled out and dropped as a suspect in the case before he was released.

Although gardai had their new suspect identified, they could not speak to him because he was medically unfit. But in the meantime, they moved quickly on establishing who he was, his movements and continued to gather evidence.

The new suspect lives outside Tullamore with his family and has done so for some time.

But his extended family reside in South Dublin.

Investigators believe at this stage the man was given a lift up to his extended family’s South Dublin residence and had visible injuries.

But the following day, he was driven to St James’s with suspected knife wounds. In the meantime, information kept coming from members of the public.

On Friday, the man’s home was searched outside Tullamore, as well as the one in which he stayed in South Dublin on the night of the murder.

Two cars were also seized while a bottle bank, just over a kilometre away from the murder scene, was removed on Monday as cops searched for more evidence.

As the man lay in his bed in hospital, gardai also began building a profile on him and his background.

They contacted Europol in a bid to see if he had any criminal history in any other countries where he lived in Europe. Gardai also interviewed his relatives and friends before they moved on him yesterday.

Confirming an arrest yesterday afternoon, a Garda spokesman said: “Gardai investigating the fatal assault on Ashling Murphy that occurred at approximately 4pm on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, along the canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co Offaly, have arrested a male in his 30s on suspicion of murder.

“The male is now detained in Tullamore Garda station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

“An Garda Siochana has no further comment at this time.”

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