Man reported to police for exposing himself on Ashling Murphy Zoom vigil branded 'lowest of the low'

Ashling Murphy. Pic Facebook
Popular Irish school teacher Ashling Murphy was found dead after going for a run on a canal bank in Co Offaly. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A "cyber flashing" incident during an online vigil for murdered school teacher Ashling Murphy has been reported to police.

Organisers and attendees said the Zoom vigil was hijacked by a man who exposed himself and appeared to perform a sex act on himself live on camera.

One of the speakers was addressing issues around gender violence when it happened.

The incident was branded the "lowest of the low," as the death of the 23-year-old school teachers shocks Ireland and beyond.

Sunday night's online vigil had been organised for women who were not able to attend the street vigils across Ireland, for people who were isolating, parents and Irish women living abroad.

Gardai beside the Grand Canal in Tullamore, where primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was found dead after going for a run. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Ms Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher, was found dead after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on January 12.

Dozens of women took part in the Zoom event in tribute to the talented young musician.

The event included music, poetry and speeches, and drew speakers and campaigners from a wide range of backgrounds.

During the video call, a man joined using the name of one of the event’s organisers after a link to the event was posted online.

The man exposed himself to the group and appeared to perform a sex act on himself before he was removed from the video call by one of the organisers.

The man then attempted several times to re-join the video call while the women were speaking about gender-based violence.

The organisers sent a full report of the incident to Zoom, and have requested the man’s information and Zoom account details.

The incident, which has been reported to gardai for further investigation, has been widely condemned.

Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long was among leaders who condemned the behaviour.

"Last night, the cyber-flashing incident at an online vigil for Ashling was just the lowest of the low," the MLA told the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"The authorities need to take a particular interest in that individual and deal with them robustly.

"There were children at that vigil who will have witnessed that incident. There were vulnerable women who have been previously abused who were at that vigil, and they will have been traumatised by that incident.

Justice Minister Naomi Long condemned the incident in the Assembly.

"There will be many others who will have been absolutely horrified and traumatised by what happened last night.

"It calls into question what goes through some people's minds and how they actually operate, but it is interesting that so often, whatever is going through their minds, what we end up experiencing is misogyny, sexism and hate directed towards women."

Ireland's Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain said: “Last night a group of women organised an online vigil, in honour of a woman who was killed last week, on a canal bank named after a missing woman and they still weren’t safe.

Floral tributes and candles are left for Ms Murphy during a vigil outside the London Irish Centre in Camden Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

“We have deep problems. The first step is to accept that. For men in particular to accept that.”

Gardai continue to hunt for Ms Murphy's killer.

On Monday night, detectives released an appeal seeking information and sightings of a man in a black tracksuit around the area where the teacher was found dead.

Irish education unions are encouraging a minute's silence to be held in schools at 11am Tuesday in tribute to the murdered teacher, whose funeral is being held on the same day.

Vigils have been taking place across Ireland and around the world, including in London, Dubai and Australia.

A spokesman for Zoom said: “This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and Zoom condemns such behaviour in the strongest possible terms.

“Our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform, and we are looking into this specific incident to ensure Zoom takes any appropriate actions.

“We have a number of default settings to help secure meetings at the outset and features to help hosts more easily access in-meeting security controls, lock meetings, as well as remove and report participants, among other actions.

Candles are pictured after a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore town Park, County Offaly Credit: Damien Eagers/PA

“We have also been educating users on security best practices for setting up their meetings, including recommending that users never share private meeting links and passwords publicly on websites, social media or other public forums, and encouraging anyone hosting large-scale or public events to utilise Zoom’s webinar solution.

“We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities.

“We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders.”

Gardai said reports were made from various parts of the country and they were investigating.