Gardaí arrest man in Ashling Murphy murder investigation

Suspect treated in Dublin hospital since Thursday to be questioned by detectives

Gardaí investigating the murder of Ashling Murphy (23) in Co Offaly last week have arrested a man who was being treated for injuries in a Dublin hospital.

A brief statement from Garda Headquarter on Tuesday confirmed detectives investigating Ms Murphy's killing had arrested of a man "on suspicion of murder" . The Garda added it had "no further comment at this time".

The suspect, who is in his 30s and has a partner and young children, was arrested on Tuesday after it was judged he had sufficiently recovered – physically and mentally – to face questions from detectives.

He was arrested in Dublin late on Tuesday morning and was taken by gardaí to Tullamore Garda station, where the murder investigation is based. He was being detained in Tullamore under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act. That allows for him to be questioned for up to 24 hours without charge. Those periods of questioning can be paused for resting periods, including to sleep overnight, meaning the 24-hour questioning time allowed to detectives may unfold over several days.

The man presented at a Dublin hospital late last Thursday with a mix of wounds, some of which were believed to be self-inflicted and others which were unexplained. Medical staff were concerned about how the injuries were sustained and called gardaí.

When checks were made into the man's background, links to Co Offaly quickly emerged and he soon became a person of interest in the investigation into Ms Murphy's murder. She was killed, in an apparently random attack by one man acting alone, at Cappincur on the Grand Canal just outside Tullamore, Co Offaly, last Wednesday at 4pm.

A national school teacher and talented musician, her funeral was taking place on Tuesday at St Brigid's Church, Mountbolus, Co Offaly, close to her family home at Cully, Blueball.

When the man now under arrest became a person of interest in the case, a house in a Co Offaly village linked to him and another in south Dublin, also linked to him, were sealed off. Both properties have undergone extensive searching and forensic examinations in recent days, with excavations also taking place there. Two vehicles, also linked to the man, have been taken for forensic examination by gardaí in recent days.

A key part of the inquiry into determining if he was in any way involved in Ms Murphy’s murder will be the results of cross-checking between his DNA and samples taken from the crime scene on the canal bank tow path. Other forensic evidence – including DNA and fingerprints – have been gathered from a Falcon Storm mountain bike abandoned at the crime scene and from Ms Murphy’s clothes and her remains.

As she was strangled, while she was out for a jog after her day's work teaching first class at Durrow National School, and tried to fight off her attacker, a significant amount of forensic evidence has been gathered.

The mountain bike abandoned at the scene is also seen as a very important piece of evidence as it yielded forensic evidence which gardaí believe will link the killer to the murder. Gardaí now also have CCTV footage from around Tullamore, Co Offaly, last Wednesday which appears to depict a man cycling that same bike in the period before the murder.

All of the information gathered to date was set to be put to the suspect while he is in custody. He was also set to be questioned about his whereabouts last Wednesday afternoon and his movements throughout that day and last Thursday before being admitted to hospital.

More to follow

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times