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Interpreter tells Ashling Murphy trial Jozef Puska said 'I did it'

Miroslav Sedlacek told the court he was on the phone translating the conversation between Puska and gardaí.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 26th 2023, 5:26 PM

AN INTERPRETER WHO translated Jozef Puska’s alleged admission to the murder of Ashling Murphy said the accused man was emotional, spoke with a “trembling” voice and appeared in “very low spirits… even desperate” after the confession.

Miroslav Sedlacek told Puska’s Central Criminal Court trial that he was on the phone, translating the conversation between Puska and gardaí who were on a ward in St James’s Hospital on the evening of 14 January, 2022, two days after Murphy was stabbed to death near a towpath by the Grand Canal in Tullamore.

He told Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, for the prosecution, that gardaí told Puska that they had a warrant to seize his belongings as part of a murder investigation.

When Puska asked if he was a suspect, one of the gardaí explained that he was a “person of interest”. Sedlacek said Puska then asked him to “translate his confession, he asked me to translate it accurately, exactly”.

Sedlacek translated for the gardaí that Puska said:

“I did it, I killed her, but please tell him also that I didn’t do that intentionally.”

Sedlacek said Puska wanted to “stress” that it was not intentional and that he was sorry.

The garda issued a caution to Puska, telling him he did not have to say anything but that anything he did say would be taken down and may be used in evidence. Gardaí also offered to contact a solicitor for Puska. Puska indicated he understood and then started asking questions relating to the wellbeing of his family.

He asked if his family members’ names would be made public and whether Murphy’s family would “like to take any revenge on his own family for what Jozef did to her”.

Gardaí assured him that the Murphy family would not harm his family.

‘Voice changed’

Sedlacek noted that Puska’s voice “changed significantly during the conversation”.

He added:

After he has made the confession, he was quite emotional, his voice was trembling, his sentences were already quite disjointed but I suppose it was a result of the situation that he was in… I would describe him as being in very low spirits, I would say even desperate, after the confession.

Under cross examination the witness agreed with defence counsel Michael Bowman SC that in a previous statement he had said gardaí were “interrogating” Puska in the hospital.

Bowman also asked the witness if he had been following the case in the news or on a podcast by Newstalk’s court correspondent Frank Greaney. “No,” he replied.

In reexamination Lawlor asked the witness what he meant by “interrogating”. He replied that he meant it in the “positive sense of the word” as an “interview”. 

Jozef Puska (33), with an address at Lynally Grove, Mucklagh, Co Offaly, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Murphy at Cappincur, Tullamore, Co Offaly on 12 January, 2022.

Roz Gillen was the nurse manager when gardaí arrived at the hospital looking to speak to Puska. She told Lawlor that she made the decision to move Puska to a private room as she thought that would be “most appropriate”.

Gillen told Bowman that gardai did not request to speak to Puska’s treating doctor, nor did they ask if Puska was fit to be dealt with by gardai. She agreed that she has no role in determining whether a patient is fit to deal with gardaí and had there been a request to speak to his treating doctor, that would have been facilitated.

Fingerprint 

Dr Kim Connick told Kevin White BL, for the prosecution, that in her role as a fingerprint examiner with Forensic Science Ireland she examined a number of items that were taken from the scene where Ms Murphy died including a navy raincoat, sunglasses and a bicycle.

She was unable to develop prints from the raincoat or sunglasses but on the underside of the bicycle saddle she found one latent mark which she developed and photographed.

Dr Connick agreed with Bowman that there would be nothing unusual about finding a fingerprint on the underside of a saddle. She said she would imagine it was deposited when the person who had been cycling the bike lifted it up by the saddle and handlebars.

Det Sgt Damian Carroll of the Garda Technical Bureau said he has 22 years of experience identifying finger, thumb and palm prints. He told Lawlor that he has “no doubt” that the fingerprint photographed by Dr Connick was made by Puska’s right ring finger.

Scientist John Hoade told Lawlor that he took swabs from the handlebars and gear changing mechanism of the bike. He was able to generate a full DNA profile which matched that of Puska. He said the chance that the DNA belonged to someone other than Puska is greater than one in one billion.

The trial continues before a jury of nine men and three women.