Irish police investigating the murder of a young teacher are continuing the hunt for her killer.
Late on Thursday night, gardai released a man they had been questioning over the death of Ashling Murphy, stating he is “no longer a suspect”.
The murder of the 23-year-old in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Wednesday afternoon has triggered widespread outpourings of grief and anger, with vigils planned in towns and cities across Ireland on Friday and over the coming days.
On Friday morning, gardai issued a renewed appeal for witnesses and asked anyone with information about a bicycle – a Falcon Storm mountain bike with straight handlebars and distinctive yellow/green front forks – to come forward.
The family of Ms Murphy have described her as a “special girl” and a “little angel”.
In a statement, a garda spokesperson said: “The male who was arrested and detained by An Garda Siochana investigating this fatal assault has now been released from this detention.
“This male has been eliminated from Garda inquiries and is no longer a suspect.”
Earlier, the Irish police force promised to leave “no stone unturned” in bringing Ms Murphy’s killer to justice.
Ms Murphy, a primary school teacher in Tullamore, was killed while running along the banks of the Grand Canal.
Those who knew her described her as a gifted musician who was loved by her pupils.
In an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, her father Raymond said: “She was a great worker, with great drive. A marvellous musician.
“She crammed so much into her short life.”
Her death has sparked fresh conversations about the safety of women in Ireland, with many questioning how such an attack could happen in broad daylight.
There is no place in our society for violence, particularly violence against women. It cannot and will not be tolerated
Taoiseach Micheal Martin
Several hundred people attended a vigil in memory of Ms Murphy in Galway on Thursday night.
Many in the crowd attended with flowers and candles.
Senior Irish politicians have promised that justice will be delivered for Ms Murphy’s family and condemned violence against women.
Irish premier Micheal Martin said the teacher “represented the best of modern Ireland”.
He added: “The entire country is devastated and shocked by the violent and barbaric killing of Ashling Murphy, a young woman in the prime of her life.
“There is no place in our society for violence, particularly violence against women. It cannot and will not be tolerated.
“The safety and security of women is at the core of our society’s values.”
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar expressed his condolences to the family of Ms Murphy.
He tweeted: “There must be zero tolerance for any violence against women.”
Mr Varadkar called Ms Murphy’s death “truly devastating and senseless”, adding that “every effort is being made to make sure justice is served”.
Dublin, Galway, and Belfast are among the locations where vigils have already been arranged, with the impact of the attack felt on both sides of the Irish border.
Superintendent Eamonn Curley told reporters that around 50 officers are working on the investigation as he appealed for witnesses to come forward.
He said gardai do not believe Ms Murphy knew her killer and said he is likely a “male who acted alone”.
The murder scene remained closed off at the Grand Canal throughout Thursday as the murder probe continued.
Gardai also confirmed a post-mortem examination has been completed.
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 Síochána. The Gardai will investigate this awful crime and ensure justice is done.
— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) January 12, 2022
The route along the Grand Canal is often busy and is a popular spot for walkers and joggers.
Floral tributes were left outside the school gates of Durrow National School, where Ms Murphy taught, as the local community reeled in the wake of the attack.
Principal James Hogan said the school community is “utterly devastated”.
He told RTE radio Ms Murphy was a “bright light who put a smile on anyone’s face”.
He added: “Ashling was a shining light to the kids and a very professional and talented young teacher.
“She was an inspiration to so many, not just in our school but across the wider community of schools.”
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 & murdered 😰Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen!
— Josepha Madigan ⚖️✨ (@josephamadigan) January 12, 2022
Labhras O Murchu, from traditional music organisation Comhaltas, said Ms Murphy was “among the finest exponents of the concertina and fiddle and was also learning the uilleann pipes”, adding: “We know that she and her family are at the heart of her local community.
“She was a much-loved school teacher and had so much to offer in so many ways.”
Declan Harvey, Fianna Fail councillor for the area, said: “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.
“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.”