Thousands have gathered in the town of Tullamore in Ireland as a vigil was held for Ashling Murphy.
Other memorials were also held across Ireland after the “senseless” killing of the 23-year-old teacher, with echoes of the national reckoning that was sparked in the UK last year by the murder of Sarah Everard.
Murphy was killed on Wednesday afternoon while going for a run along the banks of the Grand Canal in the town in County Offaly.
The killing has provoked an outpouring of grief in Ireland and beyond, as well as anger and revulsion at another young woman allegedly murdered while going about her business in public.
Irish police had arrested and detained a man but he has since been released. “This male has been eliminated from Garda inquiries and is no longer a suspect,” a Garda Síochána spokesperson told the Irish News. Police promised to leave “no stone unturned” in bringing the killer to justice.
Murphy was a teacher at Durrow national school and a musician. Her father, Raymond, told the Mirror: “She was just a special girl. She’s the youngest, a little angel. She was a brilliant girl in every sense of the word.”
On Friday evening, thousands of people made their way to Town Park on the edge of Tullamore, pledging to send “solidarity and support” to Murphy’s family. Raymond Murphy and Ashling’s mother, brother and sister – Kathleen, Cathal and Amy – all attended. During the hour-long vigil, people cried, clutched candles, and quietly clapped as prayers were said and music was played. As the light dimmed, traditional Irish music – played by Murphy’s friends and former teachers – formed the centrepiece of the service.
Attracta Brady, who taught Murphy the fiddle, played alongside other sombre performers. She described her protege as a “fabulous musician”.
“She was the most beautiful girl inside and out,” Brady said. “She was a parent’s dream. She was everything you’d want in a daughter. She had integrity, she was honest, she was trustworthy. She was quirky and a little bit cheeky sometimes with the loveliest smile and she’d get away with it because she had this beautiful twinkly smile.”
Events also took place in Belfast, Dublin and other towns and cities across the island of Ireland on Friday with further rallies and vigils to be staged over the weekend.
In London, a vigil will be held at the London Irish Centre in Camden Town on Saturday at 4pm.
“My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community,” Helen McEntee, Ireland’s minister for justice, tweeted. “The gardaí will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.”
The taoiseach, Michael Martin was among those who attended a vigil outside the Dail in Dublin. He earlier said that the murder had “united the nation in solidarity and revulsion”.
“The whole country is shocked and devastated at the horrific murder of … Ashling Murphy while going for a run. Her family, friends, colleagues and the children she taught are in our thoughts this morning,” Michelle O’Neill, Stormont’s deputy first minister, said on Twitter. “Violence against women and girls must be stopped.”
She later repeated the message at the vigil in Belfast. “Male violence against women and girls needs to stop now,” she told the crowd outside City Hall. “I think the sheer fact that, right across every town, village and county across this island today people are gathering in large numbers to remember Ashling Murphy, shows that women have had enough. We are entitled to feel safe, we are entitled to be safe. We are entitled to go for a run. We are entitled to go to work and feel safe, we are entitled to go to the shops and feel safe. I think this is a watershed moment in our society today.”
Kathleen Murphy told the Mirror: “The last thing she’d say in the morning going out was ‘Mam, I love you’.”
The killing follows the conviction of Wayne Couzens for the kidnap, rape and murder of Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, as she walked home in March last year. Couzens, who at the time of the crime was a serving Metropolitan police officer, was sentenced to life in prison.
Last month, Koci Selamaj accepted responsibility for the death of the 28-year-old schoolteacher Sabina Nessa in London in September. She was found dead a day after leaving her home to meet a friend in a nearby bar. Selamaj pleaded not guilty to her murder and the trial is continuing.
“There must be zero tolerance for any violence against women,” Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, tweeted. “Truly devastating and senseless. Every effort is being made to make sure justice is served.”
“It’s frightening that news has emerged of another woman who has been brutally murdered here on our island,” said Nichola Mallon, the SDLP’s deputy leader and Stormont’s minister for infrastructure. “This is why women right across our island don’t feel safe.”
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