Court in Ireland told man was ‘desperate’ after admitting killing Ashling Murphy

A court has heard that the man accused of murdering Ashling Murphy was “in very low spirits” and “desperate” as he told gardai that he killed her. The Central Criminal Court in Dublin heard that Jozef Puska was “quite emotional” after telling gardai he had unintentionally killed the schoolteacher. Ms Murphy, 23, was killed while out exercising on a canal path in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at about 3.30pm on January 12 last year.

Puska, 33, of Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore, has pleaded not guilty to the schoolteacher’s murder. The court was hearing evidence from interpreter Miroslav Sedlacek who provided a translation service to gardai while they were questioning Puska in hospital. Puska had presented to St James’ Hospital in Dublin on January 13 2022 with injuries allegedly sustained during a separate stabbing incident at Blanchardstown. Mr Sedlacek told the court he worked as an interpreter over the phone for gardai questioning Puska at St James’ Hospital on two occasions on January 14. He said the first call at approximately 12.20pm related to how Puska travelled from Tullamore to Blanchardstown and the alleged assault against him there. “In terms of his condition after the alleged attack, he said that he suffered bad injuries, he said he was knocked down on to the ground, that he could hardly move but he managed somehow to get taxi to get back.” Mr Sedlacek said Puska described the attack as a stabbing and said his condition was quite severe. The interpreter said he was informed that a second call at approximately 6pm was to explain to Puska that there was a warrant to seize his belongings for a criminal investigation. Mr Sedlacek said Puska asked why his belongings were being seized. He said: “That was explained to him by the garda that there was an investigation to some incident that happened in Tullamore the previous day, probably. “Jozef wanted to know how this related to himself.” Mr Sedlacek said it was his recollection that the garda specified it was a murder. “He also asked Jozef if he has any information about this incident that happened in Tullamore. “Jozef said that he heard something or that he knew something from the internet but not too much.” Mr Sedlacek said Puska wanted to know if he was a suspect. “The garda explained to him that he is not a suspect, that he is a so-called person of interest.” He said Puska did not know what this meant but it was explained to him. Mr Sedlacek said he remembered what happened next “very well”. “It was at this particular point where actually Jozef said to me and asked me personally during that telephone call to translate his confession. “He asked me to translate it accurately, exactly and that was still between me and him before I went on interpreting anything – so it was quite spontaneous. Everything came quickly. “So he said ‘please tell him everything exactly what I tell you and please, tell him that I did it, that I killed her but please tell him that I didn’t do that intentionally’.” Mr Sedlacek said Puska asked him to tell the gardai “that it was not intentional” and that he was very sorry that it happened. The interpreter said after this was translated, the garda cautioned Puska and was told he would be provided with a solicitor. Mr Sedlacek said Puska then asked the gardai some questions. “Jozef’s questions were all related to the wellbeing of his family. “Jozef was very concerned about the safety of his family. “I know that from his questions. “His question was, first of all, after I had made his confession, ‘Do you think my family members names will go public’ – that was the first concern. “The garda said probably not his family’s names but his own name would go public during the proceedings. “Another question, if I remember correctly, is there any possibility that the girls’ family would take revenge on his own family.” Mr Sedlacek said Puska stressed it was not intentional. He said the defendant’s voice “changed significantly” during the evening conversation when compared to the earlier call. “Especially after he had made his confession, he was quite emotional. “His voice was like trembling. “His sentences were already quite disjointed already but I supposed it was as a result of the situation he was in. “His voice changed significantly. “I would describe him as being in very low spirits, even desperate after the confession. “He wanted to know if his family is safe after the confession, if everything will be alright with his family and what happens to them, once he made this confession. “The garda explained to him that there won’t be any problem or any dispute between those two families, that her family would certainly not take any revenge on Jozef’s family, that there is no such threat.” Mr Sedlacek said gardai informed him that Puska did not feel well and the call would have to be terminated. Under cross examination from defence barrister Michael Bowman SC, Mr Sedlacek was asked if the full warrant was read to Puska. The interpreter said he did not remember exactly but said, “intuitively”, a summary of the warrant was read to Puska. He also told Mr Bowman that Puska had identified himself as someone the gardai “are looking for”. The court heard from the site nurse manager at St James’ Hospital who gardai had approached with the warrant to seize Puska’s belongings. Under cross examination from Mr Bowman, Rosalind Gillen said gardai never requested access to speak to Puska’s physician or inquired if he was in a fit condition for gardai to deal with him any capacity. She said she had no function in deeming the fitness of Puska to deal with gardai. The court also heard evidence from Dr Kim Connick of Forensic Science Ireland and Detective Sergeant Damien Carrall from the Garda Technical Bureau. These witnesses outlined that they had matched a fingerprint on a green and black mountain bike of interest to the case to Puska’s right ring finger. Dr Connick told the court no fingerprint could be found on a navy padded jacket that she had analysed. The court also heard from recently retired forensic scientist John Hoade, from the Forensic Science Laboratory, who explained he had taken a DNA sample from the handlebars of the bike. He said it was a full profile and it matched a sample taken from Puska. Mr Hoade said the probability of the DNA on the bike belonging to Puska was “one billion” times more likely than someone else. The trial continues.

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