Schoolteacher Ashling Murphy died as a result of 11 stab wounds to her neck and there were no other contributory factors to her death, a State Pathologist has told a jury at the Central Criminal Court.
The injuries suffered by 23-year-old Ms Murphy were mainly to the right side of her neck, included the severing of her voice box, and were consistent with being inflicted by a knife or similar implement, Dr Sally Anne Collis said. Some injuries were consistent with a serrated blade, she said.
The damage to the voice box and other injuries meant that being able to speak or at least make intelligible sounds would not necessarily have been possible, she said.
She had noted one petechial haemorrhage on the underside of Ms Murphy’s right eyelid but this was not sufficient for her to say whether compression of the neck was also involved, Dr Collis said.
It was not possible to completely exclude external compression of the neck due to the number of abrasions, she said.
The injuries suffered meant Ms Murphy would have lost so much blood her body was unable to perform its functions and the end point would have been cardio-respiratory arrest which is what had happed to her, she said.
Some injuries to her fingers may have resulted from her attempting to defend herself, she said.
The jury heard Dr Collis carried out a postmortem and external examination of the body of Ms Murphy on January 13th 2022. It was told another doctor had pronounced Ms Murphy dead the previous evening at 17.51pm.
On external examination, Ms Murphy was described, inter alia, as having long blonde hair which was blood soaked with twigs, foliage and brambles in it. Some dirt and blood was observed under her fingernails.
Dr Collis gave evidence on Thursday, the third day of the trial of Jozef Puska (33), of Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co Offaly.
Mr Puska, a native of Slovakia living in Ireland 12 years, has, through an interpreter, denied the murder of Ms Murphy at Cappincur, Tullamore, on January 12th 2022.
Ms Murphy’s parents, Raymond and Kathleen, her sister Amy and brother Cathal, were again in attendance for the trial before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of nine men and three women. Members of Mr Puska’s family were also in the packed courtroom.
The jury has heard the defence accepts Ms Murphy’s cause of death was as identified by Dr Collis.
Earlier on Thursday, Garda Tom Dunne, attached to Tullamore Garda station, said he and a colleague, Garda Shane Hunter, did CPR on Ms Murphy for about ten minutes after going to a location at Cappincur on the Grand Canal on the afternoon of January 12th 2022.
They got there about ten minutes after he took a call to the station from a distressed man who said there was a body in a ditch and gave them directions to the location, he said. Some colleagues in the detectives office also attended the scene, he said
Garda Dunne said there was “a lot of blood” on Ms Murphy’s face and her hair was matted and some of it was caught in briars. She was wearing a navy jacket and leggings and had a necklace around her neck with the word ‘Ashling’, he said. When he and paramedics lifted her body on to the tarmac path, he could see holes or puncture wounds under her neck.
He agreed he had said in a statement he could not feel a pulse. If there was one, it was very faint, he said.
Paramedics and an ambulance arrived, the body was lifted from the scene and her jacket and her blue runners came off as she was being lifted on to the tarmac, he said.
On the tarmac, her head went back and holes or punctures wounds could be seen under her neck, he said. There was a phone in her jacket pocket, a car key and he saw sunglasses on the slope down to where she had been. He observed a bike close by which was “quite distinctive” with bright green on the front of it.
Garda Hunter said he noted Ms Murphy had a phone and a fitness app on which could be seen the duration of activity was one hour 24 minutes and 20 seconds and distance 3.2km. The time on that app was 16.15pm, he said.
Under cross-examination, he agreed there was very dense vegetation and he estimated the body was three to four feet down from the verge. He did not have a note of it being seven feet in.
His note was the scene was declared a crime scene at 17.34pm and members of the technical bureau arrived at 19.08pm
Det Gda Andrew Dolan said he arrived at the scene at Cappincur at 15.46pm on January 12th 2022 with Det Garda Shane Jennings.
It was not immediately apparent there was a fatality, “there still was hope”, but they were dealing with a potential fatality, he said.
Under cross-examination, he said, having been given a description of a suspect, he had thought of a person who may be of interest and suggested to another Garda to call to a particular house.
He said he became aware later that man had been arrested and agreed he had thought that was a significant development.
Earlier on Thursday, Emma Doyle said her parents and brother live near Cappincur, she went to their home on the afternoon of January 12th 2022 and went for a walk with her dog after 3pm.
While on the canal footpath, towards Daingean, she saw a woman come around a corner and a man on a bicycle close behind her. She thought they might be together but the cyclist then passed the woman.
The bicycle was neon green on the front and the handlebars were straight, she said. The cyclist had a black tracksuit top with what she believed was a red logo and dark tracksuit bottoms. His hair was a tight crew cut, he had “striking” eyes and sallow skin, she said.
Asked by Ms Lawlor did she form a view where he was from, she said: “I didn’t think he was Irish”. They both said hello as he went past, she said.
Later, at her parents’ house, she heard voices outside and went out and spoke with Jenna Stack and Aoife Marron, who appeared upset about something.
They had said a girl had been attacked down the canal, she said. She said Ms Stack said she saw a bicycle and saw legs kicking up and down, that she had shouted at him to stop, she was calling the guards and he had looked at her and told her to “f off”.
Under cross-examination by Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, for Mr Puska, Ms Doyle said she had said hi to the man on the bike, he said hi back and he had “real light pale eyes”.
She recalled there was conversation between Ms Stack and Ms Marron about what they had seen and said they referred to shouting at two men working with Waterways Ireland who did not seem to be too concerned.
She recalled Ms Marron saying to Ms Stack ‘how did you see it’ and Ms Stack saying she saw the bicycle and then the legs and had shouted at him to stop and that she was going to call the guards. Ms Doyle agreed with counsel she had made a statement to gardaí which stated Ms Marron had said to Ms Stack: “I don’t know how you seen that.”
Re-examined by Anne Marie Lawlor SC, for the DPP, she said she remembered Ms Marron saying to Ms Stack: “How did you see it Jenna?”. She said Ms Stack said she saw the bike, she saw a man and shouted at him she was going to call the guards and he told her to ‘f off’.
The trial continues on Friday.