Heartbroken people of Ashling Murphy’s hometown prepare to unite in silent tribute

‘It’s so hard to believe it’s in our own town, and that it’s happened to people we know’

Jane Lowry 19, who played hurling with Ashling Murphy for Kilcormac Killoughey lays flowers with other floral tributes left near to the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, where Ms Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Jane Lowry 19, who played hurling with Ashling Murphy for Kilcormac Killoughey lays flowers with other floral tributes left near to the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, where Ms Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

 

The normally busy town of Tullamore was this afternoon preparing to come to a halt at 4pm with businesses and shops closing to allow staff attend the vigil for Ashling Murphy (23), the school teacher murdered at the Grand Canal Greenway, just outside the town on Wednesday.

‘Heartbroken’, ‘shocked’ and ‘afraid’ were the words most used when people are asked to described their mood.

Rachel Carter, in her 20s, described the impact as greater, she believed, in the small town where many knew someone connected to the Murphy family. Her closest friend, she said, was related to them.

“It’s surreal. You get goospebumps even talking like this. It’s so hard to believe it’s in our own town, and that it’s happened to people we know. For something like this it’s harder because it’s close to home. It’s personal.

“I just hope for the family they get some kind of closure. All we can do is send them light and love.”

Mary Kilroe (75) too said she knew the Murphy family through her own family. She was now fearful for her the safety of her own daughter who is in her 30s.

“She’d walk that Greenway all the time and she says she’d never go there alone now, not ever. Isn’t it awful women have to lock themselves up like that to feel safe?

“Things have of course got worse for women. When I was a child like that going around, you could go where you liked, talk to who you liked. Now you’d be afraid to go as far as your gate.

“I would love to go to the vigil but I would be afraid, so I will light a candle at home for Ashling.”

Several women said the events had triggered and compounded fears connected to past experiences.

Lisa Geraghty (51) had suffered an attempted break-in at her home in recent months.

“I know it’s not connected but you are awake at night again, thinking people like that are out there. And you’re scared for your daughter. My daughter in 26 and I’m worried.”

Like many, she said the release on Thursday night of a man in his 40s, arrested within an hour of the discovery of Ms Murphy’s’s body but now ruled out as a suspect had added to the town’s trauma.

“You think they are apprehended and then you realise in fact they are still out there. You think something one minute and then you hear the gardaí didn’t have the right man. For a small town especially that is just so traumatic. People are just afraid now.”

Another woman in her 50s, outside the town’s Bridge Shopping Centre, said she had survived domestic violence.

“I was at the gym this morning and the atmosphere was shocking. It was so quiet. People were saying there is nowhere safe for women anymore. We cannot live our lives like this, looking over our shoulders all the time. I have experienced all these feelings. Men must be educated about this.

“I was at the Greenway on Wednesday a couple of hours before [the murder],” she added. “ It was a lovely sunny day, the birds were singing. It was full of people. I don’t know how this could have happened. It’s like a nightmare.”

A man in his 60s described the subdued mood in the town as “eerie”. His wife had been in the town the previous evening and people were shopping in silence, she had told him.

“There was no music, people weren’t talking, very quiet. You could hear a pin drop, she said. The atmosphere around the town is gone. There is such a bad feeling in the town. It’s really bad.

“Then what happened last night with the man being released without charge, people are nervous, especially the ladies.”

Ann Carty a frail woman in her 80s, said she was “very emotional”.

“I can’t sleep at night. It’s just so sad. Everyone in the town is the same.”