The man accused of killing school teacher Ashling Murphy has taken to the stand and has claimed he had ‘no bad intention whatsoever’ when he was questioned if he had followed another teacher.
Accused Jozef Puska, a native of Slovakia, and a father of five, is due to take to the stand again today in day 13 of the trial at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.
Mr Puska, 33, from Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, near Tullamore, Co Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to killing Ms Murphy as she walked along the Grand Canal on the afternoon of January 12 last year.
His decision to speak in his own defence came following the end of the prosecution’s evidence against him, for the alleged murder of the 23-year-old teacher in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The jury heard yesterday that Ashling Murphy fought for her life, and put up a ‘big struggle’ against her attacker.
Irish primary school teacher Ashling Murphy, 23, was stabbed as she went for a jog along the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, last year
Jozef Puska 33, from Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, near Tullamore, Co Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to killing Ms Murphy
Jozef Puska, 33, (pictured left) is due to take to the stand again today in day 13 of the trial at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin
A memo of a garda interview noted that detectives said to him: ’23-year-old primary school teacher, whole life ahead of her, went for a walk.’
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Sergeant Padraic Hanley said that judging from her injuries: ‘I do know that Ashling fought for her life, put up a big struggle with her attacker.’
He said it was a common procedure for scrapings to be taken from under the nails of murder victims, and that women often had longer nails.
‘When they struggle for their lives they use their nails to defend,’ he said.
The detectives put it to him that he knew where he was on the day that Ms Murphy was ‘brutally murdered’, on January 12 last year.
‘I never saw her. First [time] this picture,’ he stated.
Mr Puska was told that a postmortem examination had revealed that Mr Murphy had been stabbed 11 times in the neck, and that she had been ‘murdered savagely in broad daylight’.
‘I understand,’ he responded.
Later yesterday afternoon, Mr Puska took to the stand, dressed in a dark suit, with his shoulder length black hair slicked back, and spoke through a Slovakian translator to a packed courtroom.
Taking the bible in his hand and with the aid of an interpreter, he swore that his evidence to the court would be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Mr Puska was asked by his defence counsel, Michael Bowman, to explain his recollection of events that day.
Mr Puska began by recounting his route on his bicycle around Tullamore town, with his evidence set to continue this morning (Fri).
Another teacher, Anne Marie Kelly, previously told the court how she felt nervous and intimidated as he cycled behind her as she walked her dog through the town, and then walked closely behind her along the canal where Ms Murphy died.
Ashling Murphy was a 23-year-old schoolteacher who worked at Durrow National School
Mr Bowman told him that Ms Kelly had been ‘of the view, or thought, that you were following her’.
Mr Puska replied: ‘Not at all, that was not my intention at all, that I would follow her.’
Mr Bowman put it to Mr Puska that he could be seen on CCTV cycling behind Ms Kelly.
He replied: ‘This is the truth, that I was behind her, but there was no bad intention whatsoever.
‘I was riding the same way and I was riding all over town. I had no intention of following anybody at all.’
Mr Puska told the jurors he had left his home in Mucklagh at around 11.30am on his bicycle, with its dark grey paint and bright green forks and handlebars.
He said he had been trying to locate his brother, who had taken Mr Puska’s wife to the dentist.
He said he had gone to the hospital ‘and anywhere there was a big car park’ because he was trying to find his brother’s car.
‘That’s why I find myself in the same locations twice,’ he said.
He agreed that he had spent a few minutes in the town’s park, and that he had come towards the canal car park.
‘I passed the car park. There was, like, a wall to a grass area, and from there I went towards Digby Bridge,’ he said.
He said he began pushing his bike, and had a cigarette.
A Garda team at the scene where Ms Murphy died at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co. Offaly
Earlier, the court had heard how Mr Puska was told by Gardaí that Ashling Murphy had fought for her life.
Mr Puska was asked to account for the presence of his DNA under her fingernails, given that he had told detectives he did not know her and never met her on the day he died.
He replied: ‘I will not comment on that.’
He was told by Sergeant Padraic Hanley: ‘I do know that Ashling fought for her life, put up a big struggle with her attacker, understand?’
‘I understand,’ he said.
Sgt Hanley told Mr Puska that scrapings from Ms Murphy’s nails had been taken during her postmortem examination, and that material in the form of human tissue had been found.
The trial continues.