A man who was wrongly suspected of murdering Ashling Murphy said he thought someone was playing a prank on him when police called to his house in the hours after the young woman’s murder.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail, Radu Floricel, 40, a native of Romania, said he realised only at the garda station that he was being questioned about her killing and ‘couldn’t believe it’.
Mr Floricel was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the killing of Ashling Murphy, 23, a local primary school teacher, who was fatally assaulted while she went for a run along the canal bank in Tullamore.
However, Mr Floricel was released from custody on Thursday night and eliminated from Garda enquiries.
Yesterday, Mr Floricel, a father of one, described the nightmarish moment he was arrested, the repeated questions by gardaí, and how his resemblance to a mystery cyclist – now another suspect in the case – wrongly landed him at the centre of the investigation.
But gardaí eventually confirmed that he had been shopping in Centra at the time that Ms Murphy was murdered.
Mr Floricel said he has already told his solicitor that he wants to sue An Garda Síochána and said he wanted to reveal his story to the Irish Daily Mail so that the public understands that he is an innocent man after he received vile threats online.
Ashling Murphy, 23, was killed on Wednesday afternoon along the banks of the Grand Canal
Jane Lowry 19, who played hurling with Ashling Murphy for Kilcormac Killoughey lays flowers with other floral tributes left near to the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, where Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening
Gardaí released a statement on Thursday confirming his innocence and booked him into a hotel for the night to protect him from people who wrongly believed he killed Ms Murphy.
Mr Floricel, originally from Transylvania in central Romania, recalled that he had visited the canal hours before the murder and had come back to his home in Tullamore, which he shares with his mother, Carmen, and sister, Neira.
Shortly before 4pm that day, he wanted to go shopping and the husband of his neighbour agreed to drive him to Centra.
While he was in Centra, an unknown assailant murdered Ms Murphy along the canal.
Gardaí rushed to get footage of the area and found video from an apartment block which showed a man cycling into the town centre from the canal just after the murder.
It is understood that Radu was wrongly identified as the cyclist and gardaí called to his house.
‘I came to the door and two gardaí started asking me all these questions. Where was I today? Was I along the canal? I couldn’t remember exactly at what time I was on the canal. They arrested me then.
‘Really, I thought it was a joke. I looked around, like, thinking this is a prank, someone is doing this for a joke, but then I could see it was real,’ he said.
He claimed a search of the house ‘had messed up the home’.
His sister Neira protested her brother’s innocence and tried to plead with gardaí to stop the search. She too was arrested.
As Mr Floricel was being driven away, he recalled how he walked through fields every day to feed some horses.
‘I thought: “Maybe that is it – I make videos of the horses, because I love horses and I thought maybe they think I killed one of the horses and I will explain myself.”’
lanna Norris (nine) and her mother Jennifer Collins (second left) attend a vigil at Leinster House, Dublin, on Friday for the murdered Ashling Murphy who died after being attacked while she was jogging along the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, on Wednesday
People leave candles and flowers at a make-shift shrine during a vigil at Leinster House, Dublin, on Friday for the murdered Ashling Murphy who died after being attacked while she was jogging along the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, on Wednesday
At Tullamore Garda Station, he was asked if he killed a young woman on the canal that day.
‘I just couldn’t believe this was happening. I said: “Of course I didn’t.” They kept asking me at what time I was on the canal and I was trying to think when exactly, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to give the wrong answer.’
They took all his clothes for forensic examination, and took more of his clothes from his home. They also searched for a bicycle but couldn’t find one.
‘None of the clothes I am wearing now are my own. They were all given to me by the gardaí, I haven’t even been able to change yet,’ Mr Floricel said.
He described the gardaí as ‘professional’ in their questioning, but said they ‘seemed convinced that I was the murderer and that is how they were questioning me’.
He explained to them that a neighbour’s husband had taken him to Centra at the time of the murder and detectives called to her house, in the same housing estate, to question her and her husband. The couple confirmed that Mr Floricel was in Centra at the time of the murder.
Still, the questioning continued.
Garda at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly on Friday, where Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening. Ashling died after being attacked while she was jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur at around 4pm on Wednesday
Members of the Garda water unit search a section of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly on Friday, where Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening
‘There was so many sessions – two hours, three hours, the same questions over and over and over. Where was I that day? At what time was I along the canal? Did I know this woman?’
Detectives then played him the video footage of the cyclist.
‘I could see that the guy in the video was bigger than me. He was darker than me, but I could also see that from some certain angle, he kind of looked like me. His hair was different also. I explained all that to them and said that it’s not me but that someone is clearly mistaken because of some similarity.’
He also explained that he has a titanium plate in his leg and another plate in his arm that prevent him from cycling and, also, that he doesn’t own a bike.
By then, gardaí had left the home of his neighbour, so she called the station to confirm that he was unable to cycle and didn’t own a bike.
After hours of questioning on Wednesday, he was placed in a holding cell in the garda station.
‘I could only get ten minutes’ sleep at a time because the gardaí kept coming to my cell to check on me,’ he said.
The questioning continued on Thursday.
Local people attend a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore Town Park, County Offaly, on Friday. Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening
Candles are pictured after a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore town Park
‘There was a huge number of gardaí in the station. They had come down from Dublin and everything. I was really in shock. I couldn’t believe that I was at the centre of this.’
Eventually, he was taken back to his holding cell. He claimed that by now, gardaí had confirmed that he was in Centra at the time of the murder and had re-examined the video footage.
‘Two gardaí came to my cell. I could hear one of them say: “You tell him.” They told me that I was going to be released. Then I came out and some of the gardaí apologised to me and thanked me for helping the investigation. Some of them even hugged me. There was so many gardaí looking at me all the way down the corridor.’
He and his family have high praise for his legal aid solicitor, Donal Farrelly, who ensured that the gardaí issued a press release stating that the man in custody was no longer a suspect.
But by then, photos of Mr Floricel were circulating on social media, with numerous people threatening to kill him. They wrote threatening comments on his Facebook page and said they hoped he would be killed in prison.
‘They even sent threatening messages to my solicitor. It was crazy, so the gardaí said that I shouldn’t go home, that they would book me a hotel for the night until everything calmed down.’
He spent Thursday night in a Tullamore hotel. On Friday, his solicitor dropped him to the family home after a consultation.
He was greeted at the door by his mother, Carmen, who embraced his warmly, and by his neighbour, the woman who helped to prove his innocence.
Murdered teacher Ashling Murphy’s family shed tears at a candlelit vigil near the scene of her killing – as ANOTHER suspect ‘who turned up at hospital with defensive wounds’ is identified
The family of Ashling Murphy comforted each other last night as they attended a candlelit vigil near the scene where the 23-year-old was murdered.
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, 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
Gardai have again appealed for witnesses and asked anyone with information about a ‘Falcon Storm mountain bike’ with ‘straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks’ to come forward.
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 after 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.’
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.’
TIMELINE OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE DEATH OF ASHLING MURPHY
Ashling Murphy, 23, finishes teaching in a local primary school and goes jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, where she is attacked.
Two young women, who were also out running, witness the attack and race to a nearby house to call gardaí.
At the scene, officers discover Ashling with serious injuries. Medical attention is provided but despite the efforts of the medical team, she dies. A murder investigation is launched.
The crime scene and the surrounding Cappincur/canal walk area is cordoned off by gardaí.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12 – 7.41PM
The Garda Press Office confirms they are investigating a fatal assault on a woman in her 20s and her body remains at the scene.
Gardaí say a man in his 40s has been arrested in connection with the incident and is being detained at Tullamore Garda Station.
It is announced that an incident room has been established at Tullamore Garda Station under a Senior Investigating Officer. A family liaison officer is liaising with Ashling’s family.
Gardaí appeal to anyone with information to come forward, particularly anyone in the area before 4pm that day.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13 –10.30AM
Superintendent Eamonn Curley of Tullamore Garda Station releases Ashling’s name and says she is a 23-year-old teacher at Durrow National School, and is from the Blueball area. He confirms her injuries are believed to be consistent with an assault.
The precise location of the incident is given – between Boland’s Lough and Digby Bridge.
Supt Curley confirms a team of over 50 gardaí have been assigned to the investigation, including officers from specialist units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
‘No stone will be left unturned in bringing the perpetrator of this crime to justice,’ he says.
He adds: ‘At this stage there is no information that the victim and her killer were known to each other. From inquiries we have carried out to date, we believe this crime was committed by one male who acted alone.’
Supt Curley says gardaí are keeping an open mind in the investigation.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13 – 5.14PM
Gardaí confirm a postmortem has been completed, the results of which are not being released for operational reasons.
They say a man in his 40s is still detained at Tullamore Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act. An appeal is made for any information about a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front wheel forks.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13 – LATER THAT EVENING
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visits Tullamore Garda Station and says all the resources of An Garda Síochána will be made available to the investigation, adding that such crimes are ‘relatively rare’ in Irish society.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13 – 10.55PM
An updated statement from the Garda Press Office reveals the male who had been arrested and detained has now been released.
It says he has been eliminated from enquiries and is not a suspect. The man’s solicitor, Donal Farrelly, says the man has been brought to safe accommodation for the night as his name and images were shared on social media and he was subjected to abuse and threats.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 – 7.46AM
Gardaí renew appeals for anyone with information about the attack or the bicycle to come forward.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 – 10AM
Former Assistant Garda Commissioner for Dublin, Dr Pat Leahy, tells RTÉ Radio 1 that the investigation could go in ‘multiple directions’.
He says investigations are not ‘linear processes’ and ‘around-the-clock’ investigative activities always continue in such cases.
Solicitor Donal Farrelly speaks to the media again, saying his client has gone into hiding for his own safety, that his life has become ‘unbearable’ and he was ‘absolutely vilified’ after being identified online.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 – 4PM
By now the killer has been on the loose for 48 hours while vigils for Ashling are held nationwide.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 – 5.37PM
Gardaí release another statement saying they are making ‘significant progress’ but not confirming any specific details for operational reasons.
They say the Murphy family are appreciative of and overwhelmed by the national outpouring of support. The family have said they now need privacy, space and time to process Ashling’s death.
Gardaí have established a phone line (057-9357060) so people can contact the investigation team with any information.
Reporting by the Irish Daily Mail