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Accused admitted murdering Ashling Murphy, garda tells court

A garda has told the Ashling Murphy murder trial that the accused Jozef Puska agreed that he committed the murder and also told the officer: "I feel guilty and I say I regret it".

Detective Sergeant Brian Jennings said that Mr Puska "re-iterated" how sorry he was and said that he "didn't do it intentionally".

The witness said he visited St James's Hospital in Dublin two days after Ms Murphy was stabbed to death while she was exercising by the Grand Canal in Tullamore last year. He said he was acting on information from Dublin gardaí who said Mr Puska had suffered stab injuries to his stomach and had told detectives that he travelled from Tullamore to Dublin on the day of Ms Murphy's death.

Reading from notes that he took at the time, the detective quoted Mr Puska saying: "I did it, I murdered, I am the murderer."

Jozef Puska (33), with an address at Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co. Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Murphy at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, on January 12, 2022.

Det. Sgt Jennings said he first visited Mr Puska the day after Ms Murphy was stabbed but was told he was either in theatre or recovering from an operation. Det. Sgt Jennings returned to the hospital on the 14th and spoke to Mr Puska at about 3pm with the aid of an interpreter who was on the phone on loudspeaker. 

He said Mr Puska told him that he was from Mucklagh, Co. Offaly, and had come to Dublin the previous Wednesday. He said he got a lift from a man named Tom and was planning to meet a woman. Mr Puska said he arrived in Dublin and took a taxi to Blanchardstown but didn't know where he was to meet the woman. 

He said he showed the taxi driver the location on his phone but he no longer had that phone and thought it had either been stolen or he had dropped it. He said his wife did not know he was going to Dublin for a "date". When he arrived in Blanchardstown, he said he was attacked by two men he did not recognise, one of whom grabbed him, knocked him to the ground and held him while the other stabbed him in the stomach.

He said he didn't remember much after that and may have lost consciousness for a time. He said he might have taken a taxi to his parents' house in Crumlin from where an ambulance crew took him to St James's the previous afternoon.

Mr Puska explained scratches on his head, saying he had been lying and "dragging on the ground" as he tried to defend himself during the assault.

Det. Sgt Jennings had viewed CCTV footage of a man cycling in Tullamore on the day of Ms Murphy's death, who had been identified as a suspect in the case. He asked Mr Puska if he owned a bike and he said he did but it had been stolen two weeks previously from outside his home. He described it as medium sized and black at the back and green in the front.

Jozef Puska (pictured), when he was asked by Detective Sergeant Brian Jennings if he committed the murder, replied: "Yes".
Jozef Puska (pictured), when he was asked by Detective Sergeant Brian Jennings if he committed the murder, replied: "Yes".

That evening Det. Sgt Jennings became aware that his colleague Det. Sgt Pamela Nugent had a warrant to search the hospital and seize Mr Puska's belongings and a blood sample. For Mr Puska's "pride" nurses moved Mr Puska from a public ward to a private room while gardaí executed the warrant and Det. Sgt Jennings, again with the aid of an interpreter, explained to Mr Puska what was on the warrant.

Det. Sgt Jennings told Mr Puska that they were investigating the murder of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore. Mr Puska said he had read about it in the newspapers and asked if he was a suspect. Det. Sgt Jennings told him he was a "person of interest". 

He said Mr Puska then paused, "it was a notable pause, the interpreter came on and said he is making an official statement that he is admitting that he committed the murder."

Det. Sgt Jennings then wrote down, word for word, what the interpreter translated as Mr Puska spoke. Reading from his notes, he said: 

I did it, I murdered, I am the murderer.

Det. Sgt Jennings cautioned Mr Puska that he did not have to say anything but anything he did say would be written down and may be used in evidence. The interpreter translated the caution and Mr Puska said he understood.

The detective asked if Mr Puska was saying he committed the murder and Mr Puska replied: "Yes".

Det. Sgt Jennings said he stopped asking questions when Mr Puska indicated that he wanted to speak to a solicitor. Through the interpreter, Mr Puska continued talking, saying the reason he didn't answer earlier and the reason he was "pleading guilty" was because "I don't want my family anything to happen to them, nothing bad to them. I feel guilty and I say I regret it."

Mr Puska signed the detective's written note of what he had said but the detective said he did not read over the note to Mr Puska at that time.

He said Mr Puska kept asking questions about his family and their safety. Det. Sgt Jennings explained that gardaí would not harm his family and the Murphys are "a good family". 

Mr Puska asked if his name would be published in the papers and "re-iterated how sorry he is, he regretted it and didn't do it intentionally." The detective said Mr Puska was fully awake at the time and showed remorse.

The trial is continuing before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of nine women and three men.