Ashling Murphy to be laid to rest on Tuesday as murder investigation continues

Ashling Murphy to be laid to rest on Tuesday as murder investigation continues

An image of the late Ashling Murphy is displayed on the screen at half-time in the Connacht vs Leicester Tigers rugby match at the Sportsground in Galway. Picture: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ashling Murphy will be laid to rest on Tuesday morning in Co Offaly.

The funeral mass for the school teacher will take place at 11am at St Brigid's Church in Mountbolus, followed by her burial in Lowertown Cemetery.

Her family have requested family flowers only and for all other funeral events to remain private.

A live stream of Ashling's funeral service will be available at MemorialLane.ie.

Messages of condolences can be left for the family on Lawless Funerals website or on RIP.ie.

Garda probe 'moving at pace'

The unexpected release of a suspect in the murder of Ashling Murphy would “not stop or hinder” the garda investigation, a retired senior detective has said.

 Crowds gathered at the vigil. Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy, organised by ROSA, at St Patrick's Street, Cork City on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins
Crowds gathered at the vigil. Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy, organised by ROSA, at St Patrick's Street, Cork City on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins

Within hours of the release of the man, it emerged that the investigation team had identified a second person they wished to speak to in relation to the fatal assault on the young teacher.

The garda investigation had attracted some criticism on social media after the release of the initial suspect and, of more significance, led to concern and fear among people, particularly women and girls, in Tullamore.

There had been speculation throughout Thursday, and some media reports, that the initial suspect was expected to be charged with a possibility he might be released pending a file to the DPP – and that this would happen sometime early on Friday morning.

Then, just before 11pm on Thursday, came a sudden statement from Garda HQ that not only had the man been released but that he had been “eliminated from Garda enquiries” and was “no longer a suspect”.

That arrest had stemmed from descriptions that two eyewitnesses had given to gardaí of the man who attacked Ms Murphy on the banks of the Grand Canal in the town.

 Members of the public light candles and place flowers on the pavement. Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy, organised by ROSA, at St Patrick's Street, Cork City on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins
Members of the public light candles and place flowers on the pavement. Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy, organised by ROSA, at St Patrick's Street, Cork City on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins

The fact he was the “wrong man” came as a blow to many in the community.

“The impact of that news was definitely fear and unrest for a lot of women,” Ann Clarke, manager of Offaly Domestic Violence Support Services told the Irish Examiner.

“There was a sense, that yes, there was this vicious crime but the gardaí had him. Now, that person had nothing to do with it and the perpetrator was still at large.” 

There had been indications from gardaí during Thursday that the case was still very much open. 

Local Superintendent Eamonn Curley said in the morning that while a 40-year-old man had been arrested gardaí “continue to retain an open mind in this investigation”.

Later in the day, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told media that they were “not jumping to assumptions” on suspects and were “keeping an open mind as to who the suspects might be”.

He said they have to follow where the evidence leads, not where their hunches might be.

The Irish Examiner understands that gardaí released him after the results of forensic tests came back, comparing his DNA and fingerprints to those found at the scene, which ruled him out.

A retired detective, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Irish Examiner that the decision to arrest is based on a variety of factors – including eyewitness descriptions, whether the suspect has a history of violence, but also how he behaves or what he says when gardaí confront him.

“We don’t know the circumstances they found him or what condition he was in,” he said. 

“People don’t know the full details, but gardaí would not arrest him unless they had reasonable cause for the arrest. Remember they had good descriptions.” 

There were some reports that gardaí were not satisfied with the man’s answers when they asked him about his movements.

“Okay they had a suspect in,” said the retired detective. “Their job is either to remove him out of the investigation or put him in – so they are doing their work. They are satisfied he didn’t do it. What do people want?

 Crowds on Cork's St Patrick's St this afternoon at a Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy. Picture: Larry Cummins
Crowds on Cork's St Patrick's St this afternoon at a Vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy. Picture: Larry Cummins

“If you start worrying about all the armchair detectives out there you are in trouble. You continue your investigation, you know the inside story, you ensure you gather every detail and keep working and working.” 

He stressed that the investigation team – particularly with senior detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation involved – would not have “put all their eggs in one basket” with this suspect.

“They will insist that all the work be done, irrespective of a suspect in custody. It’s not case that all the focus was on him – okay there were detectives involved in interviews and doing background, but others were doing other work.

“All that work is ongoing, but people don’t know, all the crap online and on radio about the gardaí you have to leave it go over your head.” 

He pointed out that gardaí still had leads to go on, saying they still had a description of the attacker. 

“It may not have been the man they arrested, but someone else with a similar description, a good description. They also have the bike, this distinctive bike they suspect might be linked to the assailant.” 

And so, as Friday wore on, it emerged that the investigation had not been impeded by the release of the first suspect.

A second man – described as a “person of interest” rather than formally a “suspect” – had been identified and gardaí were looking to talk to him.

Things are “moving at pace”, said one source.

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