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Accused told gardai ‘I did it’ days after Ashling Murphy death, court told

The teacher was stabbed 11 times in the neck while out jogging, the jury heard.

A man accused of the murder of an Irish schoolteacher last year told gardai “I did it… I am the murderer” while receiving treatment in hospital, a jury has heard.

In the opening day of the trial, the Dublin court heard that the 23-year-old teacher had been stabbed 11 times in the neck.

Ashling Murphy was killed while jogging along a canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, last January 12.

Ashling Murphy death
Floral tributes to Ashling Murphy laid at the Grand Canal in Tullamore (Brian Lawless/PA)

Jozef Puska, 33, with an address at Lynally Grove in Tullamore, Co Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Outlining the case to the jury at Dublin’s Criminal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, senior counsel for the prosecution Anne-Marie Lawlor said that “quite a number” of maps, some of the 25,000 hours of CCTV footage collected by gardai, and witness evidence would feature in the case.

She said Ms Murphy was stabbed 11 times to the right side of her neck, and had other wounds that may have been defensive injuries.

Ms Lawlor told the court there was no prior connection “of any kind” between Ms Murphy and Puska.

She said that DNA samples taken from under Ms Murphy’s fingernails matched that of Puska.

The prosecutor said a “somewhat distinctive” bicycle, owned by Puska, was left next to Ms Murphy’s body and that CCTV would show him on the bicycle in Tullamore in the hours before Ms Murphy’s death.

St Brigid’s Day projection
A projection of Ashling Murphy on the walls of Trinity College, Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

She said there were briars and thorns at the scene that will emerge as “significant” later on, because Puska would later be found with cuts on his hands “consistent leaving the scene”.

The jury would be shown pictures of wounds to Puska’s hands, taken by gardai while he was receiving treatment in St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Ms Lawlor said that he “made up a pack of lies” to gardai about being involved in a stabbing in Blanchardstown.

She told the court that when gardai returned and questioned him again, Puska told them: “I did it, I murdered, I am the murderer.”

In what Ms Lawlor called “very significant evidence”, she told the jury that after gardai told Puska he did not have to say anything, he apologised and said “I cut her neck”.

Puska appeared in court with a ponytail and wearing a grey suit.

The court rose for lunch early to wait for a Slovakian translator to arrive, as a Czech translator could only be found for Tuesday morning.

Judge Tony Hunt outlined the obligations a jury has and said that the defendant needed to be viewed as “cloaked” in a presumption of innocence, and “strongly” urged them to withstand the temptation to look at the case outside the courtroom.

“It is a reasonably lengthy case so I will be summing up the evidence at the end for you,” he said.

Ms Murphy’s family were present in court for the opening of the trial.

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