Murder of Ashling Murphy lays bare horrifying history of violence against women in Ireland

Since 1996, 244 women have been violently murdered in Ireland
Jastine Valdez, Ashling Murphy and Sarah Everard were all murdered by men unknown to them in violent attacks

Jastine Valdez, Ashling Murphy and Sarah Everard were all murdered by men unknown to them in violent attacks

Clodagh Meaney

There have been fresh calls for zero tolerance of violence against women following a recent spate of horrific and fatal attacks.

At 4pm on Wednesday January 12, 23-year-old Ashling Murphy was murdered in a seemingly random assault while running down a stretch of Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

A man in his 40s is currently in custody where he is being questioned by Gardai.

The prolific nature of violence against women by men has led to anger, shock and sadness across the country once again today.

Since 1996, 244 women have been violently murdered in Ireland.

In 87% of resolved cases the perpetrator is a male known to the victim. 13% of perpetrators were strangers.

While the killing of women by strangers are rare, they highlight the climate of fear in which women live their lives.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid said that the murder of Ashling Murphy is a shocking example of the danger posed to woman by violent men.

'Such a senseless loss of life': Ashling Murphy

'Such a senseless loss of life': Ashling Murphy

The area where Ashling was killed is known as ‘Fiona’s Way’ in honour of Fiona Pender who vanished on August 23rd 1996.

The 25-year-old was last seen alive at the home on Church Street in Tullamore that she shared with her partner John Thompson.

Five people, who were all related, two men and three women, were arrested in connection with her disappearance in April 1997, however they were later released.

Fiona Pender

Fiona Pender

No trace of Fiona Pender, who is one of 867 long term missing people in Ireland, has ever been found.

Ashling’s murder is not the only shocking and violent attack on a woman in recent history.

On May 19th 2018, 24-year-old Jastine Valdez was abducted and murdered by Mark Hennessy, a man unknown to her, in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.

An eyewitness reported the abduction to Gardaí, with Jastine’s family reporting her missing later that night.

The following evening, Gardaí tracked down her kidnapper, who was shot by police after pulling a knife.

He left a note indicating where he buried the young woman’s body.

Jastine Valdez

Jastine Valdez

Her remains were recovered at Puck’s Castle in Shankill, and she was laid to rest a month later by her family in her hometown in the Philippines.

It's not just violence on the street women need to worry about, many are also unsafe in their own homes.

Just this year, Daniel Murtagh the ex-partner of Nadine Lott, was given life in prison for her violent murder at an apartment in Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 14th 2019.

Her mother described the scene of the crime, where she was beaten and stabbed to the point where she was "completely unrecognisable," as one of "total horror".

Nadine Lott was brutally killed by Daniel Murtagh

Nadine Lott was brutally killed by Daniel Murtagh

Last year, the violent murder of Sarah Everard sparked global outrage.

On March 3rd 2021, the 33-year-old was kidnapped and murdered by serving police officer Wayne Couzons.

After clocking off work, the predator used his position of power as an officer of the law to falsely arrest Sarah who was walking home from visiting a friend in Clapham, South London.

A week after she disappeared, Sarah's remains were found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just meters from land owned by Couzens.

He subsequently was charged and convicted of her murder, receiving a whole life sentence in prison.

Sarah Everard was murdered in Clapham, south London (Family Handout/CPS)

Sarah Everard was murdered in Clapham, south London (Family Handout/CPS)

Just months later on September 17th, 36-year-old teacher Sabina Nessa was killed while on a five minute walk to meet a friend at a pub in Kidbrooke, South East London.

Her body was found under a pile of leaves in Cator Park along her walking route to the pub.

Ten days later, Koci Selamaj, a 36-year-old man unknown to Sabina was formally charged with her murder.

He is set to go to trial in June 2022 after pleading not guilty.

Sabina Nessa (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Sabina Nessa (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Women’s Aid, the national frontline organisation working to prevent and address the impact of domestic violence and abuse, has called for zero tolerance of all forms of male violence against women.

CEO Sarah Benson said today: “The killing of women is the extreme end of a spectrum of violence and abuse that women in Ireland and across the world experience every day.”

“Every woman should have the right to be safe, both in their own homes and in their communities. We need a zero tolerance to all forms of male violence against women and it will take all of us to commit to lasting change. “

“This includes men who must act as allies in tackling misogyny and inequality. There needs to be an investment in resources for education to change attitudes and we need an improved criminal justice system that better protects women.”

“If we do this, we will ultimately create a more equal and safer society for everyone – men and women alike.” “We are also hearing of the internalised fears many women carry no matter where they are in public places because of this,” she explained.

“Any response to yesterday’s appalling events must not focus on places – it must focus on perpetrators. We must not fall into tired tropes of examining whether areas are ‘safe’ but consider instead the attitudes and actions of men who make women feel unsafe even in crowded and well lit areas.”

“Women are not afraid of the dark or a lonely space. They are afraid of a violent male perpetrator in the dark.”

“Not all men are violent, and I don’t think anyone is claiming that. However, the majority of violence against women, and indeed men, is perpetrated by men. That’s something as a whole society, including men, we need to tackle.”

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