Police probing the murder of schoolteacher Ashling Murphy are believed to be trying to identify a mystery man who was seen cycling near to where she was killed.
Ms Murphy was killed on Wednesday afternoon while jogging along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly.
A CCTV image, obtained by The Sun, appears to show an unidentified man riding a mountain bike in the Irish town of Tullamore.
The image was reportedly passed to police by a member of the public and the investigation team are believed to be examining it.
It comes as reports suggest police are investigating whether the killer stalked potential victims near the canal in the 24 hours before the murder of Ms Murphy.
The Garda said it had made ‘significant progress’ in its investigation, but was not releasing details for operational reasons.
It is understood that gardai have identified a new person of interest, who is believed to be in hospital in the Dublin region receiving medical care, and are waiting to speak to him.
Searches are being carried out in properties in Tullamore and Dublin as part of the investigation, it is understood.
Pictured: Police probing the murder of schoolteacher Ashling Murphy are believed to be trying to identify a mystery man who was seen cycling near to where the 23-year-old was killed
Reports suggest the bike seen on CCTV bears a ‘striking resemblance’ to this mountain bike which was issued as part of an appeal by the Gardi on Thursday, January 13 (pictured)
It comes after Gardai asked anyone with information about a ‘Falcon Storm mountain bike’ with ‘straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks’ to come forward.
A source told The Sun the movements of the bike seen on the CCTV are ‘crucial’ to the investigation and said it bears a ‘striking resemblance’ to the mountain bike Gardai appealed for information on.
They added: ‘This man is seen cycling through Tullamore and it’s possible he might have information on what happened to Ashling.
‘Gardai will also be using this image to see if there are other images out there of this man on the bike.’
Meanwhile, the Sun reported that officers were investigating whether the killer was stalking potential victims for 24 hours before Ms Murphy was killed.
The newspaper stated that a woman in her 40s also reported that she was approached by a man on a bicycle just two hours before Ashling was murdered on the canal bank in Cappincur on Wednesday afternoon.
Garda Síochána told MailOnline: ‘To protect the integrity of an ongoing Criminal investigation An Garda Síochána cannot confirm or deny current speculation reported in the media.’
It comes after the family of Ms Murphy comforted each other on Friday night as they attended a candlelit vigil near the scene where the 23-year-old was murdered.
Ashling Murphy (pictured), 23, was killed on Wednesday afternoon along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly
Ms Murphy was killed on Wednesday afternoon while jogging along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly.
Her parents, Raymond and Kathleen, her brother Cathal and sister Amy, wept as they linked arms and retraced the primary school teacher’s final steps.
They were accompanied by garda liaison officers on the opposite side of the canal to the crime scene.
It comes as a new suspect in the murder case is said to have turned up at a hospital with facial wounds which staff believe were ‘inflicted by someone defending themselves’.
Staff at the unnamed hospital in Dublin told police the man arrived at the casualty department on Thursday night with severe facial injuries, the Times reported.
He is alleged to have travelled there from Tullamore. Officers remain at the hospital.
Ashling Murphy’s mother, sister, and brother, linked arms and walked along the bank of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly this evening
The family comforted each other tonight as they attended a candlelit vigil near the scene where the 23-year-old was murdered. (Left to right, Ashling’s sister Amy, and parents Kathleen and Raymond)
They retraced the primary school teacher’s final steps, accompanied by garda liaison officers on the opposite side of the canal to the crime scene
The vigil took place at the entrance to Fiona’s Way, where Ashling had been jogging
Meanwhile, a 40-year-old man arrested in connection with her murder but released without charge last night was moved to a secret location after he and his family received death threats online.
The man’s solicitor Donal Farrelly said he had been moved after details which clearly identified him as the suspect under arrest, including his photo, were posted online.
Mr Farrelly said his client had been subjected to ‘extreme vilification’ on several social media platforms following his arrest and that he was going through ‘an extremely difficult time’.
The man was questioned over two days before his release and last night a garda spokesperson said he had been ‘eliminated from Garda inquiries’ and was ‘longer a suspect.’
But Mr Farrelly said it was ‘still difficult to get that message out’ to some social media users and that his client would stay in the hotel until he felt safe enough to leave.
Earlier today, a post-mortem examination of a primary school teacher in Ireland has revealed she was strangled to death. Officers believe she put up a brave fight, but added that Ashling may have been stalked prior to her death.
Meanwhile thousands of people, including Taoiseach Micheal Martin, attended a vigil for Murphy at Leinster House in Dublin on Friday afternoon. A group of musicians played in honour of Murphy while others lit candles and held pictures of the 23-year-old.
Memorials were also planned in Tullamore, Limerick, Derry, Dungannon and Belfast on Friday afternoon, with dozens more vigils scheduled across Ireland over the weekend.
Musicians play during a memorial for 23-year-old Ashling Murphy, who was murdered in Tullamore while out jogging on Wednesday afternoon
People hold up pictures of Ashling Murphy at a vigil in her honor after police identified a second suspect in the investigation into her brutal murder on Wednesday afternoon
Officers earlier said they believe the killer acted alone and attacked the talented musician while she was jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur, known as Fiona’s Way, at around 4pm on Wednesday.
He fled when two women came across the attack and gardaí were quickly on the scene after a call from a member of the public.
Ms Murphy was still alive and they tried to give medical assistance but she could not be saved.
Police investigating the murder have said ‘no stone will be left unturned’ in bringing her killer to justice.
Stormont deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said there had been an ‘outpouring of grief’ following the murder of Ashling Murphy.
Speaking to the media at a vigil in Belfast, Ms O’Neill said: ‘At the start of this week I launched a strategy. I called for views in terms of developing a strategy to tackle male violence against women.
‘Little did I know on Monday that I’d be standing here only a short number of days later, joining with other women who have gathered here outside Belfast City Hall to show solidarity to the family and all that loved Ashling Murphy.
‘A horrific murder of another woman in our society at the hands of a male.
‘We are all here because we want to show that support, that love.
‘There has been an outpouring of grief all week for Ashling Murphy and for all that loved her.’
Ms Murphy (pictured left and right) died after being attacked while she was jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur, known as Fiona’s Way, at around 4pm on Wednesday. The route is named in memory of missing woman Fiona Pender
People hold pictures during a memorial for 23-year-old Ashling Murphy, who was murdered in Tullamore while out jogging, outside Government buildings, in Dublin, on Friday
Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Irish Labour party politician Ivana Bacik attended the vigil for murdered Ashling Murphy outside Leinster House in Dublin on Friday
A woman wearing a mask adorned with the words ‘she was going for a run’ was pictured at a memorial for Ashling Murphy on Friday
A group of musicians played in honour of Murphy while others lit candles and held pictures of the 23-year-old at a vigil in Dublin on Friday
A woman is pictured this morning carrying flowers to lay with other tributes left near to the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, where Aisling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening
Ashling Murphy, 23, was killed on Wednesday afternoon along the banks of the Grand Cana in Tullamore, County Offaly. Pictured: The scene today
According to the Independent.ie, Ms Murphy came from a highly respected family in the local area that is well known in the music scene, and live outside Tullamore.
‘This area here, where the crime occurred, is popular among Tullamore residents and is widely used for recreational purposes,’ Superintendent Eamonn Curley told reporters on Thursday.
‘The victim of this crime is Ashling Murphy.
‘Ashling was a schoolteacher in Durrow National School. Our prayers are with Ashling’s family at this time and indeed the wider community, her teaching colleagues and the children she taught who are without their teacher today.
‘Immediately following the discovery of this crime, a full-scale murder investigation was launched.’
Ms Murphy came from a highly respected family in the local area that is well known in the music scene, and live outside Tullamore
Declan Harvey, Fianna Fail councillor for the area, said: ‘I want to extend my sympathies to Ashling’s father, mother and all her extended family.
‘I am devastated. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking of it all because it is a place I go all the time. She went there jogging, she does it regularly. I am lost for words.’
Mr Harvey said it is a route that he and his family often walk.
‘Tullamore is probably the safest place in the world, and after yesterday people will be nervous to go down to the canal,’ he added.
‘It’s a lovely area and helps clear your head. It’s a very popular route that everyone takes. People walk their dogs, people with their kids and prams.’
Police officers visited the school where Ms Murphy worked on Thursday morning to speak with staff and offer support.
At around 9.30am, a police water unit arrived at the scene to begin a search of the waterway next to where the attack occurred.
Superintendent Eamonn Curley (left) near to the scene in Tullamore, Co Offaly, after a young woman, who has been named locally as Ashling Murphy, was killed on Wednesday evening
Pictured: A map showing where Ms Murphy’s body was found along the Grand Canal way, also known as Fiona’s Way. The route is named in memory of missing woman Fiona Pender, of whom there is a monument to in Tullamore
Gardai carry out investigations at the Grand Canal at Cappincur on Thursday after the horrific killing
Police investigating the murder have said ‘no stone will be left unturned’ in bringing her killer to justice
Justice Minister Helen McEntee tweeted: ‘My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community.
‘Please, anyone with information, come forward to An Garda Siochana. The Gardai will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.’
Further Education Minister Simon Harris said: ‘A young woman, simply out for a run in the afternoon and brutally killed.
‘Thinking of her and her family and community tonight and their unimaginable pain. We must all act to end violence against women. We all have a responsibility.’
Gardaí believe the killer acted alone and attacked the talented musician while she was jogging along the canal bank
Pictured: Flowers are left at a Garda checkpoint in Tullamore after a young woman, who has been named locally as Ashling Murphy, was killed in Co Offaly. She died after being attacked while she was jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur at around 4pm on Wednesday. Picture date: Thursday January 13, 2022
Superintendent Eamonn Curley speaks to the media near to the scene in Tullamore, Co Offaly
The canal path that Ms Murhpy was attacked on is named after Fiona Pender, a missing woman who was last seen at 6am on August 23, 1996, at her Tullamore flat.
Her disappearance has been the subject of an on-going investigation ever since.
Gardai are appealing for information, and asking anyone who was in the Cappincur/Canal walk area of Tullamore before 4pm on Wednesday to make contact with them.
Minister of State Josepha Madigan for Special Education and Inclusion said: ‘A young woman can’t even go for a run along a canal pathway – at four o’clock, in the middle of the day – only to be attacked and murdered.
‘Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen.’
Police want to identify mystery cyclist who was seen near the scene of tragic death