In a courtroom revelation, a school bus driver named Rostislav “Peter” Pokuta shed light on the day Ashling Murphy met her tragic end with details that could change the course of the trial.
Pokuta, a Slovak national residing in Ireland since 2006, disclosed a connection with Jozef Puska, the man accused of Ashling Murphy’s murder. He explained that their paths crossed due to his job as a school bus driver.
On the fateful day of Ashling’s demise, Puska arrived at Pokuta’s residence around 9 pm, visibly shaken and wet, after claiming to have been in a “fight” in town. Mr. Pokuta recounted the unusual encounter and admitted that he refrained from sharing the complete story with the police until January 24 out of fear for his family’s safety.
Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old schoolteacher, lost her life while exercising along a canal path in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at approximately 3:30 pm on January 12, the same day as the encounter between Pokuta and Puska. The 33-year-old Puska, hailing from Lynally Grove in Mucklagh, Tullamore, maintains his innocence in the murder case.
The testimony unfolded in the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, where Pokuta described his dinner being interrupted by Puska’s unexpected visit. Puska offered no details about the altercation he had supposedly been involved in earlier. The two set off in Pokuta’s son’s gray Volkswagen, and Peter Pokuta repeatedly questioned Puska about the incident, to no avail.
Crucial evidence emerged from the CCTV footage presented to the jury, showing Pokuta driving his son’s car. Puska, at the time, sported a black tracksuit with distinctive white markings on the side.
Upon arriving at Puska’s home, the accused made an unsettling comment: “I’ll sort you out tomorrow.” More details were not disclosed to the authorities until January 24, owing to Mr. Pokuta’s concerns for his family’s well-being during a turbulent period marked by the ongoing investigation into Ms. Murphy’s murder.
The defense questioned Pokuta about Puska’s condition at the time of the ride home. According to Pokuta, Puska appeared injured, possibly clutching his stomach or head, presenting a stark contrast to his usual demeanor.
Further complicating the case, the court received information about a Fitbit smartwatch linked to an email address containing “Ashling Murphy.” Garda Ciaran Byrne pointed out the capabilities of a FitBit, explaining its ability to record data such as distances and heart rates. Mr. Byrne meticulously analyzed the Fitbit’s data, comparing it with a test conducted along the canal route.
The Fitbit data indicated that by 3:01 p.m., the user had traveled 1 km along the canal walk, followed by 2 km at 3:10 p.m. and 3 km at 3:20 p.m. However, from 3:21 p.m., the smartwatch ceased recording consistent data. Strikingly, the user’s orientation exhibited erratic and violent movements from 3:21 p.m., with the watch capturing rapid orientation changes from 0 to 360 degrees.
The Fitbit data suggested this tumultuous activity occurred at the spot where a memorial now stands. Heart rate data, recorded in beats per minute (bpm), revealed that the exercise session commenced with a rate around 100 bpm but dropped significantly to below 60 bpm at 3:27 pm. The heart rate then skyrocketed until 3:31 pm, after which the Fitbit ceased to record any heart rate values.
Hopefully, the data gleaned from the smartwatch will help the court unravel the case and get justice for Ashling.