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Who is Jozef Puska? From anonymous father-of-five to notorious killer

Convicted murderer’s DNA found under Ashling Murphy’s fingernails, which was regarded as evidence of victim fighting for her life

Jozef Puska

Jozef Puska, the man found guilty of the murder of Ashling Murphy, has no history of other violent crimes, nor were any suspicions ever raised about him. It is understood he never had any contact with gardaí aside from a road traffic incident.

The 33-year-old, a father-of-five from Slovakia but long-term resident in the Republic, has no criminal record here and a study of his phone, internet search history and even other unsolved attacks unearthed no evidence of links to other crimes.

Gardaí carried out extensive inquiries to determine if he could be linked to several unsolved crimes in recent years in the areas where he spent time. However, none of those investigations unearthed any evidence he may have offended in the past and simply not been detected.

Garda sources said after the wrong man was initially arrested for Ms Murphy’s murder along the Grand Canal towpath at Cappincur, Co Offaly, on January 12th, 2022, the fact Puska revealed details of the attack, namely that it was a stabbing, which was not in the public domain at the time, enabled the investigation to refocus on the right suspect.


During the period when the precise manner of the murder had not emerged, Puska was spoken to by gardaí as he was undergoing treatment in St James’s Hospital, Dublin. He had incurred stab wounds to the abdomen which gardaí believed were self-inflicted in the hours after the murder of Ms Murphy, a national school teacher.

During that conversation in St James’s, just two days after the killing, he admitted stabbing a woman in the Tullamore area, at which point the inquiry became intensely focused on him.

His claims, made via an interpreter, confirmed him as the chief suspect, which was a very significant development after the serious Garda blunder of arresting the wrong man immediately after the fatal attack. Gardaí later released that man without charge and stated clearly he had been eliminated from their inquiries, despite his initially being treated as a suspect.

Puska came to Ireland about 10 years ago. He is originally from a village in the Poprad area of Slovakia. He left school early, before completing secondary level, and went to work on building sites in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and then on to Prague in the Czech Republic.

By the time he moved to Ireland in 2013, he was a married man with three children, initially living in Dublin and then Tullamore. While living in Co Offaly he and his wife had two more children. At the time Ms Murphy was murdered, Puska was living with his wife and children in a five-bedroom house in Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co Offaly.

When he was being 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 understand each other.” He also explained he had not been able to work in Ireland since suffering a slipped disc and was on disability allowance.

Puska gave evidence during the trial, in his own defence, and claimed another man murdered Ms Murphy. He said he was in the area at the time on his bike and had gone to assist Ms Murphy and was himself stabbed by the killer 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 got a friend to bring him to his home in Mucklagh. Later that evening he went to his parents’ home in Crumlin, Dublin, arriving there just before midnight.

Gardaí believe Puska had suffered some injuries, such as scratches, by the time he arrived at his parents’ home. However, they also believe he stabbed himself in the abdomen while in his parent’s house. Gardaí believe this was a ploy to begin a cover-up of his attack on Ms Murphy. They believe the self-inflicted wound was intended to be used by him as proof he too had been stabbed by the person who attacked Ms Murphy.

When he became very unwell, due to his wound, early the following day — January 13th — an ambulance was called, with paramedics and gardaí arriving at the Crumlin property. At that point, given the nature of his injuries and his links to Tullamore, he became a person of interest to gardaí investigating Ms Murphy’s murder. The man arrested in error was still being held by gardaí in Tullamore at that point.

While Puska initially claimed he had been stabbed in an incident in Blanchardstown the same day as the murder, he soon confessed to attacking a woman in Tullamore. He made that confession, which he subsequently claimed no memory of, while in St James’s Hospital as he spoke to gardaí on January 14th.

Despite strong and persistent rumours circulating since the killing, gardaí have determined Puska and Ms Murphy were not known to each other and had never met, nor had their paths crossed, even indirectly.

In the aftermath of the killing rumours, which have persisted, circulated that Ms Murphy knew Puska’s children through her job as a national school teacher and had reported him to the authorities over child welfare concerns. It was widely claimed Puska planned the attack on Ms Murphy as revenge for her alerting the authorities, none of which was true.

Instead, gardaí believe Puska was intent on attacking a woman on the day that he killed Ms Murphy. He had followed other women in the Tullamore area on the same day, before finally spotting Ms Murphy at a stretch of the Grand Canal just outside the town when she was jogging.

However, when he moved in to attack her, she fought back and Puska killed her. He was carrying a knife on the day and stabbed Ms Murphy 11 times in the neck. Puska’s DNA was under Ms Murphy’s fingernails, which was regarded as evidence of the victim fighting for her life.