Brave Ashling Murphy fought for her life – and left Garda detectives crucial forensic evidence that may help nail her killer, it has emerged.
The Star has confirmed that gardai have the killer’s DNA — after the heroic teacher fought him during the brutal attack in Tullamore on Wednesday afternoon.
And that DNA evidence will be crucial in linking her attacker to the shocking murder.
“Her attempts to defend herself resulted in us having the attacker’s DNA. She fought him. That will be crucial,” a source said.
And as gardai focus on a new suspect who was being treated in a hospital in the east of the country yesterday, sources also confirmed that detectives have secured DNA and fingerprint evidence from the bicycle that they believe is connected to the killing.
The Falcon bike was recovered by gardai in Tullamore shortly after the brutal strangulation and beating of Ashling (23) in the Offaly town at around 4pm on Wednesday — and has now been forensically examined.
Gardai say they have made significant progress and sources believe they are close to making a breakthrough in the coming days.
Although there has been no fresh arrest in the massive murder investigation, sources have confirmed a suspect has been identified.
The man handed himself in to a hospital in the east of the country — some distance from where Durrow National School first class teacher Ashling was murdered as she jogged on the banks of the Grand Canal on Thursday evening — more than 24 hours after the killing.
It’s understood he had cuts and bruises and gardai who were alerted to that initially believed he may have been involved in an incident in the city.
But gardai then became suspicious his injuries may have been related to Ashling’s murder and officers from Tullamore investigation team were sent to the hospital.
Gardai were monitoring the man last night in case he tries to leave the hospital where he was still receiving medical treatment.
Once gardai are told by medics that he is fit to be questioned, officers will make their move on him.
But in the meantime, it is understood they are gathering forensics to see if they can connect him to the DNA already recovered.
Properties in Dublin and Tullamore linked to the person of interest were searched by gardai last night.
As thousands of people attended vigils all over Ireland to remember the native of Blueball just outside Tullamore, gardai again appealed for any witnesses to come forward.
And Garda specialists, including divers and members of the dog unit, were still at the scene of the shocking murder yesterday — trying to find more evidence that will help bring Ashling’s murderer to justice.
Gardai said progress is being made — but refused to confirm any fresh details of the probe.
However, several sources did confirm to The Star that there was a new suspect — and that he was in hospital.
A Garda spokesman said last night: “Significant progress has been made in the investigation to date. An Garda Síochána is not confirming any specific details for operational reasons.
“An Garda Síochána continue to support Ashling’s family at this time.
“The Murphy family are appreciative and overwhelmed by the national outpouring of support shown to them.
“The Murphy family have requested that they now need privacy, space and time to process Ashling’s death.
“An Garda Síochána wishes to acknowledge the support of the public to date and in order to assist the public in providing information to the investigation team a dedicated phone line 057 9357060 has been established at Tullamore Garda station.
“An Garda Síochána continue to appeal to any person who has not made contact with the investigation team and who has any information on this fatal assault to come forward.”
The spokesman again appealed for information on the distinctive Falcon bike — which sources say is vital to the probe.
Sources also said gardai have significant CCTV footage of the bike in Tullamore — but want more.
The spokesman added: “An Garda Síochána continue to appeal for any information on a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/ green front forks prior to 4pm on Wednesday 12th January 2022 and in the previous days/weeks.
“Gardaí continue to appeal to any persons that were in the Cappincur/Canal walk area of Tullamore, County Offaly before 4pm, Wednesday, 12th January 2022, to make contact with them.
“Gardaí continue to appeal to any person in and between the Tullamore town centre area and the wider approach roads to The Grand Canal Way in the vicinity of Capincur on the 12th January 2022, with any form of video footage (Dashcam, CCTV, Mobile phone, GoPro Cam etc…), to contact us.
“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.”
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for Ashling’s funeral which is expected to take place in the coming days.
A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office last night said arrangements had not yet been finalised.
Ashling’s requiem Mass is expected to take place in the parish of Kilcormac, south west of Blueball.