Investigation Gardaí carry out dig in garden linked to chief suspect in Ashling Murphy murder
Ashling's killer lunged at another young schoolteacher and a garda's wife as they tried to go to her aid during the fatal assault
Gardaí were last night carrying out a dig in the back garden of a property linked to a suspect in the Ashling Murphy murder probe - as he was being treated in hospital for possibly 'self-inflicted' stab wounds.
The Sunday World can reveal that the suspect is a father who has lived in Co Offaly for a number of years. He was taken to a Dublin hospital, where he presented with stab wounds, on Thursday.
The Sunday World has also learned that Ashling's killer lunged at the first witnesses on the scene as they tried to come to her aid, after the 23-year-old teacher was attacked as she jogged along a canal in Tullamore on Wednesday.
At the dig taking place yesterday, officers, in white forensic body suits and carrying shovels, emptied bags of materials and topsoil taken from the back-garden of the property into a skip.
Garda divers carried out searches in the canal at Cappincur, Tullamore, where the much-loved daughter and sister Ashling died as a result of 'a violent assault'.
The Sunday World understands that, the suspect, who is the second man to be identified by gardaí as a suspect in the case, is a father, originally from Eastern Europe, who has lived in Offaly for years.
Despite inaccurate claims on social media, he is not an asylum seeker and has no links to any Direct Provision Centre.
A separate address in Dublin linked to this man was also being searched by gardaí yesterday.
Sources said the gardaí expect to speak to the man in the coming days but cannot do so now due to what were described as the serious nature of his injuries.
A source said he could not 'confirm or deny' if the injuries were self-inflicted.
DNA captured beneath Ashling's fingernails, as she bravely fought for her life, and DNA and fingerprints from the bicycle, which was later recovered by gardaí, will be compared with that of the new suspect in a bid to rule him in or out of Garda inquiries.
Yesterday's development came as a key witness told the Sunday World how Ashling's killer lunged at another young schoolteacher and a garda's wife as they tried to go to her aid during the fatal assault.
The two women were jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore, at 4pm on Wednesday when they spotted the killer attacking the 23-year-old on the grass verge.
"They shouted at him to get off but when they approached he turned and lunged at them," local resident Tom Martin - whose phone was used by one of the women to alert gardaí - told the Sunday World.
We have also established the identities of the two women but are not disclosing their names.
Tom, who has already given a formal statement to gardaí, told the Sunday World: "It was around 4pm when one of the girls called to the door.
"I didn't see the other girl because she had gone to the house across the road to try and use the phone there.
"The girl who called to my door was emotional but she was holding together well in the circumstances.
"She said there was a girl being assaulted up on the bank of the canal. They had been out jogging themselves.
"The first thing she said was: 'Can I use your phone?' I think she knew how serious it was at that stage.
"She said the assault was happening past the kennels on the far side of the lough. That's a good bit away… so even though they ran it took them a couple of minutes to get down here.
"She said they had shouted at him (the killer) and when they did, he turned and lunged at them.
"That's when they ran back to get help."
Tom said the gardaí had arrived down to the scene within 15 minutes of the 999 call.
"They were here incredibly quick," Tom said. "By that stage, she (the women who made the 999 call) had been called back outside by her friend.
"We didn't see them after that."
Tom, who has lived by the canal his entire life, said he and his wife got the heartbreaking news that Ashling had passed away at about 6.30pm that evening.
"We heard first that she was really badly injured and then we heard later, someone texted us to say the poor girl had died."
Tom said he and his wife attended Thursday evening's vigil in Cappincur and that seeing Ashling's dad Raymond break down in tears as he played Sweet Sixteen on the banjo had been "absolutely devastating".
"I've lived here all my life," the 69-year-old said.
"We built this house here in 1979 and nothing like this has ever happened before. We've two daughters of our own.
"We've three children in total and they were reared on the canal. This is just devastating."
Asked whether there was anything he wanted to add, Tom said he wanted to praise the two young women who happened on the murder scene for "keeping it together so well" after witnessing the horrific attack. "They did everything they could," he said.
"They split up when they got back to the houses to get to a phone," he added.
"One went to another house and one came here in case they wouldn't get an answer at one.
"They did everything in their power to help."
A resident in the house visited by the second woman said she had not been home when she called.
But she added: "My daughter saw him (the alleged killer) cycling up the canal not long before it happened.
"She recognised the bike when the gardaí put the picture out.
"The funny thing is that she went walking up the canal with the dog herself. But the dog stopped half-way and dragged her home.
"It's so heartbreaking what happened to that poor girl."
Gardaí have stressed that nomination of possible suspects during the course of an investigation is routine - and they have urged the public against attributing blame to individuals or sharing their identities during an ongoing investigation.
The identity of an earlier discounted suspect was widely shared on social media when he was arrested earlier in the week.
This prompted concerns for that individual's safety in spite of the fact that evidence proves he had no involvement whatsoever in the crime.
Gardaí yesterday declined to comment officially on ongoing developments in the case.
But in a statement they said: "Significant progress has been made in the investigation to date.
"An Garda Síochána continue to appeal for any information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks (image attached), prior to 4pm on Wednesday 12th January 2022 and in the previous days/weeks.
"Anyone with information is asked to contact Tullamore Garda Station on 057 9357060, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda Station."
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