ASHLING Murphy may have fought her attacker with a set of KEYS during her final struggle, it’s emerged.
The teacher, 23, fought bravely before she was killed by the stranger last Wednesday on a canal bank in Tullamore, Co Offaly – and police are now grilling a dad-of-three over her killing.
Police in Ireland are now probing the theory that Ashling used her keys in a bid to save her life as she fought off her attacker.
It comes after the chief suspect in the teacher’s tragic murder case was spotted leaving St James’ Hospital in Dublin around 11.30am yesterday morning.
The dad-of-three, in his 30s, was arrested and is being probed by police after spending the last five nights at the Dublin hospital.
The suspect – from outside Tullamore – can be held for 24 hours before being charged or released.
Ashling – who put up a brave fight during the frenzied 4pm assault – died last Wednesday after she was targeted at the canal bank.
One onlooker, who saw the suspect being arrested, told The Sun: “He was taken out the back of a building where there is a lot of work going on. It was a bit strange to see a man being led in handcuffs from the rear of the building.
“He was led to the police car in a matter of seconds and then he was away.”
He was last night being quizzed by local detectives and specialists from the Police National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Formally arrested at the hospital, the man was brought immediately from Dublin to Tullamore Police Station.
Police motorbike riders provided an escort to the cops’ investigation team.
We can also reveal the suspect wasn’t previously known to police before he emerged as a suspect in the tragic murder case.
Officers are also working closely with their colleagues at Europol and Eastern Europe.
The man was arrested as thousands of mourners joined Ashling’s family, friends, boyfriend, pupils and fellow musicians at her funeral in Tullamore yesterday.
A source said: “The investigation has already made great progress and this is another significant development.
“There is still a lot of work to do in the case but a lot of evidence has already been gathered.
“The suspect will now be interviewed on suspicion of murder and will be given every opportunity to pass on what he might know about this horrific murder.”
Ashling’s heartbroken boyfriend, Ryan Casey, told mourners at her graveside that Ashling “is the greatest love of my life.”
He said: “I will cherish the last five years we spent together for my entire life. I hope that some day, God willing, we can be reunited once more and continue the great plans we had made for each other.
“Goodbye for now, but not for ever, darling. Ashling shall live on in all of our hearts.”
The suspect had been in hospital since last Thursday being treated for hand, facial and other injuries.
Cops are probing if some of the injuries he sustained were self-inflicted.
The man and dad-of-three, originally from Slovakia, was first identified as a suspect by cops last Thursday.
FIT TO BE INTERVIEWED
Around the same time, he was brought to the Dublin hospital by a relative. It’s understood he claimed he had been stabbed in an attack in west Dublin.
The relative then called the cops and told them that the suspect was in hospital.
Police are still attempting to build a profile of the suspect – by speaking to his family and friends.
Evidence that has been gathered already includes DNA, CCTV images and witness statements in a bid to catch Ashling’s killer.
One of the CCTV images includes a man riding on a mountain bike before the murder.
Forensic evidence has also been recovered from a Falcon Storm mountain bike found close to the scene of last Wednesday’s murder.
Detectives will try and establish if the DNA recovered from the scene is a match to the suspect’s DNA.
Police have further searched the chief suspect’s home outside - and they’ve seized cars and phones linked to the dad-of-three.
A bottle bank was also seized by cops on Monday as they continue to search for a weapon used in Ashling’s barbaric killing.
The Grand Canal was searched over fears her killer may have dumped a weapon into the water.
MAN ‘DRESSED IN BLACK TRACKSUIT’
Our exclusive picture comes after we revealed yesterday how police received dashcam footage from an ambulance as part of their efforts to trace the movements of Ashling’s killer.
The Irish Sun can reveal police contacted the Lifeline Ambulance Service in Tullamore yesterday after establishing from CCTV that one of its vehicles was in the same area where Ashling was murdered.
But they are now examining the footage as part of their efforts to identify anyone acting suspiciously before the 23-year-old was targeted in the random attack.
The ambulance service’s CEO, David Hall, confirmed the ambulance’s dashcam footage was being examined by officers.
Mr Hall said: “We were contacted by the gardai who requested dashcam footage from one specific vehicle that was in the area at the time of this terrible crime.
“We are fully cooperating with the gardai and the footage has been given to them.”
On Monday, officers issued an appeal urging the public to come forward if they recalled seeing a black tracksuit-clad man on a Falcon Storm mountain bike on the day Ashling was attacked.
Source: The Sun