Gardaí investigating the murder of Ashling Murphy have identified a person of interest in the case and are waiting to speak to him after he has been treated for a number of injuries.
The Irish Times understands the man has been treated at a hospital in the east of the country and detectives plan to speak to the man once he is in a position to be interviewed. That man was being treated in hospital on Friday, although his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. He was being monitored by gardaí as they waited to speak to him.
Gardaí investigating the murder believe they now have significant forensic evidence they can crosscheck against any suspect identified in the days and weeks ahead. Garda sources expressed confidence relating to progress in the investigation over the past 24 hours, despite the arrest and subsequent release of a man who gardaí have since said had no involvement whatsoever in the crime and has been ruled out of the investigation.
Members of the public have also been contacting the investigation team with information in a bid to aid the inquiry into the killing of Ms Murphy on the outskirts of Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Wednesday afternoon, Garda sources said.
The same sources said very valuable evidence was gathered and confirmed on Thursday and led to the arrested man being excluded completely from the inquiry.
One Garda source described as “misplaced” the public perception that the first days of the investigation were wasted as very significant progress had been made, specially with forensic evidence and other items found by gardaí.
One main feature of the investigation is now focused on the forensic evidence left behind at the murder scene and the origins of a Falcon mountain bike found by officers. Gardaí believe some people in Tullamore know who owns the bike and CCTV footage gathered from around Tullamore was being studied in a bid to identify the bike and the person using it.
Investigating gardaí believe the bike – a Falcon Storm mountain bike with yellow and green forks – may be linked to the killing. If not, they need to eliminate the bike and its owner from their investigation. However, detectives suspect the bike is linked to the murder of the 23-year-old national school teacher from Blueball, Tullamore.
The crime scene at Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, on the Grand Canal towpath about 3km east of Tullamore, remained sealed off on Friday and was still being forensically examined. The clothes Ms Murphy was wearing have also been examined.
The bike is in the possession of gardaí and was not recovered from the canal. It was dry when it was found and has been forensically examined.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that gardaí are doing “everything they possibly can” and using all their resources to find the person responsible for the fatal attack on Ashling Murphy .
Mr Martin was asked on Friday what he would say to the community and country who may be concerned that the perpetrator could still be at large.
“That is of concern, of course, to the people of Tullamore and to the people generally across the country. The gardaí are doing everything they possibly can and [using[ all of their resources to protect people and to make sure people are safe, but also to find the person responsible for this and to bring that person to justice. I can say that without hesitation, that every effort will be made [to] bring [that] person to justice and to keep people safe in intervening period.”
Mr Martin said he had a “private conversation” with Ms Murphy’s family yesterday. “ I just wanted like everybody across the country on behalf of people to express our solidarity with them, and our devastation at the fact that a beautiful young woman has been taken from their lives.”
Earlier Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that “absolutely everything that can be done is being done” to bring the killer of Ashling Murphy to justice.
A notice on RIP.ie said Ms Murphy will be "sadly missed by her heartbroken family" which includes her father Raymond, mother Kathleen, brother Cathal, sister Amy, aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family, as well as by neighbours and friends.
Ms Murphy was from the townland of Blueball, Tullamore. She had previously played camogie for Offaly and was a talented musician. One of three siblings, she was from a family well known on the traditional music scene in the midlands.
A number of vigils are being held on Friday afternoon at locations across the Republic, including Tullamore Town Park at 4pm, to remember Ms Murphy and to call for an end to male-on-female violence.
A National Women’s Council of Ireland vigil was due to take place outside Dáil Éireann, Dublin, starting from 4pm – about the time that Ms Murphy was killed on Wednesday – for one hour. Vigils were also planned in Limerick’s Arthur’s Quay Park at 6pm, Belfast City Hall at 4pm, Derry’s Guildhall steps at 4pm and on Saturday at 9.30am at Cork’s Atlantic Pond.
Books of condolence have been opened for Ms Murphy.
In a statement on Thursday night, gardaí confirmed that "the male who was arrested and detained by An Garda Síochána investigating this fatal assault has now been released from this detention.
“This male has been eliminated from Garda enquiries and is no longer a suspect.”
‘A woman’s worst nightmare’
Speaking to Midlands 103 radio this morning, Ms McEntee said: “I spoke to the Garda Commissioner this morning, in constant contact with him, to make sure that [the force has] anything they need, anything that is required to carry out this investigation and to find who has done this to Ashling and that they’re brought to justice.”
Ms McEntee declined to discuss any details of the investigation but said: “What’s important here is that the gardaí are able to carry out their investigation.”
She said that the investigation involved “engaging with the people, it’s taking interviews, it’s gathering evidence where possible, it’s forensic evidence where possible, which thankfully over recent years has become central to cases, it’s the renewed call they have made to people to come forward if they have any kind of information . . .”
She reiterated Garda calls for people to come forward if they had any information about the distinctive mountain bike and said that if anyone had dashcam footage that perhaps “might have been able to pick up anything happening” that they should come forward to gardaí.
Former assistant Garda commissioner for Dublin Dr Pat Leahy said the investigation could go in “multiple directions”.
In an interview with Today with Claire Byrne, on RTÉ Radio 1, Dr Leahy said that the inquiry in to the death of Ms Murphy so far shows all of the hallmarks of a professional commitment to exploring all of the evidence and pursuing the truth.
Dr Leahy stressed that investigations are not “linear processes” and that “around the clock” investigative activities always continue in such cases even when a suspect is being questioned.
He emphasised that a “wide net of Garda activity” is under way in relation to the killing that has shocked the country.
Dr Leahy urged the public to come forward with information on the case even if they believe it is minor in significance.