Five pictures of tragic Ashling Murphy were held by relatives in court last night as a Slovakian man was charged with her murder.
Jozef Puska was brought before a special sitting of Tullamore District Court over the killing of the 23-year-old as she went for a jog along the Grand Canal in the Co Offaly town last Wednesday.
When the 31-year-old entered the room before the hearing, relatives of the teacher stood at the back holding five pictures of her, including ones of her at school when she was younger and playing GAA. Judge Catherine Staines heard from Det Sgt David Scahill who gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.
He said when he asked the accused did he have any response following the charge of murder, Puska replied: “No.”
Puska, of Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co Offaly – a village 5km away from Tullamore – wore a grey tracksuit and he did not address the court during the short hearing.
A Slovakian translator was sworn in and the accused listened to the proceedings through him.
The judge granted legal aid after a statement of means was handed in. Puska’s solicitor Eoin Lysaght explained the man was on
disability benefit of €200 per week.
There was no application for bail, as with a murder charge it can only be granted by the High Court.
Puska was remanded in custody until January 26 to Cloverhill District Court.
Beforehand, a huge crowd formed outside the court gates before his arrival in a Garda vehicle, with a few people going into the grounds to stand on the steps of the building. As he got out, some people roared at him as gardai formed a line to bring him up the steps.
Afterwards, the crowd inside the grounds waited for more than 10 minutes for him to emerge. Again, cops had a pathway ready as they linked arms.
With a garda holding each arm, the man was brought down as locals shouted at him.
He was put into the Garda van but it took off and people began to chase it as it left the yard.
Puska, a father of five, had been in Garda custody since his arrest on Tuesday at St James’s Hospital.
He took his full eight hours break, as is his right, on Tuesday night before specialist investigators from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation continued quizzing him until yesterday evening.
After consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, officers were given the go-ahead to charge him.
Meanwhile, a second man was released from custody after being arrested earlier yesterday.
The male, aged in his 30s, was being questioned at a Garda station in the eastern region on suspicion of withholding information contrary to The Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.
A file is now going to the DPP.
Ashling, from Blueball outside Tullamore, was a teacher at Durrow National School.
Her funeral took place at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, outside Tullamore, on Tuesday.
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