Ashling Murphy’s partner has spoken of the ‘indescribable’ pain and suffering he has gone through since losing his “soulmate” 22 months ago.
Ryan Casey delivered a heartbreaking Victim Impact Statement at the Central Criminal Court before Jozef Puska was handed the mandatory life sentence for murdering the 23-year-old schoolteacher in January 2022.
At the end of his statement, he turned to Puska and said his behaviour during the trial summed up who he really is, “the epitome of pure evil”.
“One thing is for sure,” he said. “You will never, ever harm or touch another woman ever again.
“When your day of reckoning comes, may you be in hell a whole half hour, before God even knows you're dead.”
He told Puska that he had stolen “everything I've ever wanted in life” from him, adding that because of his actions, he will never get to marry his soulmate, hear her voice or see her smile again.
“This horrific, senseless, and completely evil taking of Ashling's life is our life sentence that we have to bear for the remainder of our lives,” he said. “A sentence in which there is no parole.”
He asked the court to hand Puska the “absolute maximum” number of years in that’s possible, “which in my opinion, in this country, is still nowhere near enough”.
You can read the statement in full here:
Ashling and I first met on the 6th of September in 2013 at a local rugby club disco in Tullamore, which was 10 years ago this year.
We were both just 15 years old and it was our first time to ever meet even though we only lived seven or eight minutes up the road from each other.
I knew even way back then that there was just something so special about her; her beautiful and warm personality coupled with that big distinctive and wholesome smile that I grew to love more and more as time went on.
The very next day, I just couldn't resist, I felt that there was genuinely something so special about her....so I just had to text her.
So, from that day forward we started texting each other and after a number of weeks and meet-ups, we were in a relationship together until the following May of 2014 [when] we went our separate ways.
I suppose looking back on it now, we were both still so young; we both had a lot going on at that age, but during that time we were together, we had gotten so, so close to each other.
We texted each other every day non-stop. [We] had countless dates, nights out, house parties together, we'd even spend five to six hours on the phone to each other two or three nights a week until all hours of the morning – just talking about everything and anything until one of us practically fell asleep.
We simply couldn't get enough of each other.
I had been at her house for the first time in February of 2014 where I met her family for the first time when I was collecting her for an under-16 dinner dance – our first of many dinner dances together.
I instantly loved her family. They were and still are to this day the most warm, wholesome, and welcoming family you can ever meet.
They symbolise absolutely everything that is great about Irish society; good honest, kind, and hard-working people that I am so lucky to call family.
The following two years were followed by the two of us constantly staying close and in touch with each other.
Deep down, we both knew that we still both really liked each other but we just never took that next step.
All this time that we weren't technically together, we did stay in regular contact; we both knew absolutely everything there was to know about each other and what we were doing on a weekly or daily basis.
I had a minor hurling dinner dance in February of 2016 and of course, there was only one person that was going to be by my side that night and that was Ashling.
In August of 2016, we started to get even closer and closer, which followed through to October 11th of 2016.
I remember this night so well, I had just won the intermediate hurling championship with our local hurling club and our celebrations were still ongoing for the third night straight.
While being out with all my teammates and having a great time, I was there as always, texting Ashling all that day and night and at one stage of the night and for whatever reason - and to this day I don't know what got into me - but I made in my opinion the [best] decision I've made in my entire life.
I decided to just leave the pub, get into a taxi and head for home without telling anybody because I had nothing only tunnel vision for one thing and one thing only, and that was to ring Ashling and tell her exactly how I felt and what she meant to me.
That I didn't want to waste any more time and risk losing her.
I remember it like it was literally only yesterday. The call lasted over 3 hours, I told her everything, at certain stages the both of us got very emotional on the phone as we both knew it was meant to be and that we were just destined to be soulmates.
On the 28th of October 2016, Ashling officially met my parents and my little sister for the first time at my parents' wedding.
The first ever embrace between Ashling and my parents was caught on camera in the background on the dancefloor footage which thankfully and by chance made it into their wedding video.
This was the real beginning of how me and Ashling first met, got to know each other, and started our relationship – although I found out on December 18th of 2016 while at my house that we weren't officially going out as I had never officially asked her to be my girlfriend.
So it was on that night that I officially asked Ashling to be my girlfriend and this became our anniversary date, which worked out perfectly as I had a surprise gift for Christmas to give to her that night, which was the first ever gift I got her – a Rose gold Daniel wellington watch with a brown leather strap that I knew she really wanted for a long time.
A watch that she practically never took off and wore every day, and a watch that her mother Kathleen now wears every day.
The next five years of our relationship were filled with nothing but so much love, happiness, joy, adventure, trust and most importantly, respect.
It was quite simply, heaven on earth.
I never could have imagined it being possible to fall for someone so quickly and as much at such a young age.
What we had was very, very special and we both knew it.
We had gone through and experienced so much together and made so many beautiful memories as we practically grew up together.
Such memories include our countless trips away together, countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries; helping each other through the Leaving Certificate, helping each other through four years of college, helping each other start our working careers and also helping each other through times of difficulty and loss.
Honestly, Ashling knew me better than I knew myself.
She could literally read me like book, know exactly what mood I was in and know exactly what to do or say to cheer me up - and I know for a fact this went both ways.
There was nothing I loved more than cheering her up when she was having a bad day.
In the entire time that we were together, we never had one single disagreement or one single little argument which is something I loved about our relationship.
I like to think that it was down to the fact that we both loved and respected each other too much to even consider having an argument.
We were both such planners, we loved to plan ahead and look towards the future.
We had made so many plans together such as moving in together, starting our careers, travelling the world together, building a house together, having kids and starting a family, proposing to her, getting married, the list just goes on and on.
We had planned to move to Galway in late summer of 2022 and live together for one year as I was due to be starting my new job in Boston Scientific in Galway.
After this, we had plans to move to Dubai for one to two years as it was always Ashling's dream for as long as I’ve known her to teach in Dubai.
After Dubai, was going to be coming home and building our house, which we already had spent so many hours designing together over the Christmas of 2021.
We had plans of setting up a joint bank account so we could get started on doing percolation testing as we were due to be meeting the architect in January or February of 2022 to walk the site we had picked and discuss what our next steps were going to be.
We often discussed how many kids we'd love to have and how they'd all be mighty little hurlers or camogie players and even better musicians.
One thing Ashling used to always say to me was that if we were lucky enough to have a little boy someday, she wanted to call him "Rían" which is Irish for Ryan.
In terms of marriage, there was just no question, I was going to marry the girl of my dreams and my soulmate.
We talked about marrying each other a lot, I knew the exact type of engagement ring that she'd love, we would talk about the wedding day itself and all the fine details of what the day would be like – what type of dress she'd love, who would be the bridal party, how it would be in Mountbolus Church, where the reception would be – just everything, even down to what our wedding song would be which Ashling always wanted to be "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from the Lion King.
When I used to drive home from her house after either spending the night, dropping her home, or just visiting, I always, every time without fail, would smile to myself while driving out her driveway and say to [myself] out loud in the car, "I can't wait to marry that girl someday".
I would have married Ashling a long time ago if I could and I wish I did, but we just didn't get the chance to reach that part of our plan.
Last year, on the 12" of January, I lost so much more than my girlfriend.
I've lost my partner in life, my closest friend, my best friend.
I've lost my parents-in-law, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, the privilege of marrying into the Murphy and Leonard family, a role model for my little sister, future grandchildren for my parents and Ashling's parents and great-grandchildren for my grandparents.
Everything that I ever wanted in life, every single plan that I had in life is now gone and cannot be brought back.
Ashling was simply everything to me, and this is what I've lost. I've simply lost everything. Ashling was just everything.
The pain of losing someone who is so important to you is indescribable.
It's a pain that I cannot describe. I never knew that there was a pain as severe and long-lasting as the physical and emotional pain that comes with losing the most important person in your life – especially in such a horrific, senseless, and just beyond evil act by such an insignificant, lowest of the low, waste of life.
It just doesn't make any sense to me how somebody who is just so insignificant, worthless, lowest of the low, burden to society and overall, a waste of life, can completely and permanently destroy so many people's lives by taking the life of a person who is the complete opposite – a life with meaning, a life with dreams, a life of love and compassion, respect; a person who contributed to society in the best ways possible.
The last 22 months have been the toughest 22 months of my life and will always be the toughest 22 months of my life and this will continue to be the toughest time of my life.
Over the course of the last 22 months, I've had to deal with a lot of personal struggles, thoughts, and difficult challenges as a result of losing my soulmate Ashling such as:
- Not being able to sleep at night and when I do finally sleep my mind doesn't shut down as I constantly have a wide range of both pleasant and not-so-pleasant dreams.
- I sit at the shrine I have made for her in my room before going to bed every night and tell her about my day which always ends badly.
- Every night, when I get into bed, I say to Ashling that I'm one more day closer to seeing her again.
- Wishing I didn't wake up when going to bed.
- The countless days where I didn't get out of bed.
- Not getting her "Goodnight, I love you" in person or text before going to bed.
- Going to bed every night alone and without her by my side.
- Not wanting to finish college and quit my degree.
- The countless days where I felt I was in no way in control of my own mind.
- Losing all of my self-confidence.
- Constantly hating and punishing myself for having small intermitting moments of happiness.
- Not allowing myself to be happy at all and feeling guilty if I was.
- Killing myself with guilt if I do anything that's in any way enjoyable.
- The feeling of being completely lost in life with no direction and seeing no light at the end of any tunnel.
- The horrendous feeling of being surrounded by so many people but yet feeling so isolated and alone.
- Not having that person in your life anymore that you can truly open to, like I used to with Ashling.
- There are now times where I don't want to and am simply not able to talk to anyone anymore’ [I can’t] reply to messages, answer, or return phone calls even when it’s my closest friends or family.
- I've become a lot more of an angrier and short-fused person... as I've lashed out at family and friends which is against my nature and not who I really am, and I hate it.
- The anger boils so hot in me sometimes that it makes me feel physically sick. I'm constantly second-guessing myself with every single decision I have to make, no matter how big or small it is. This especially follows through to my work as I know in my heart and soul that my mind, my focus and my memory is just nowhere near as sharp as it used to be, which just kills me when I make errors that I know I just shouldn't be making.
- The constant pressure of putting on a brave face and having to hide how I'm actually feeling and having to carry on about my day and complete my tasks both in work and outside of work.
- Not being able to watch or listen to anything with the slightest bit of violence in it anymore, even simple things like using a knife to eat. I now hate knives. I hate holding knives; I even hate looking at them. I still have to use them to eat but every single time I'm finished, I just put it away from me immediately because I cannot stop my mind from wandering no matter how hard I try.
- There are a number of specific songs that also catch me off guard which remind me of specific moments that I shared with Ashling.
I just find myself constantly missing her presence; I just can't stop thinking about her every second of every single day.
I'm constantly recalling and playing over and over again our memories in my head – but in particular, is the very last day I saw her in person, which was the 10th of January at my house when she was dropping off some shopping she had done for us as we were all stuck at home isolating because there was COVID in our house at the time.
All we wanted to do was give each other a big hug but we didn't as Ashling and I were due to be flying to Manchester on the 21st of January so we were afraid that we wouldn't be allowed to fly if one of us got COVID.
I can't describe the horrendous feeling of regret every time I think of this moment. There was a brief moment where I was standing beside her, and she was standing at her car door just before she sat in, where we just stood looking into each other's eyes for about three to four seconds until we both just pouted from not being able to give each other a hug and a kiss then laughed and said our goodbyes and said to each other what we always have said to each other every single night for five years straight.
"I love you."
I ask myself each and every time, why didn't I just give her a huge hug and never let her go.
These are just a few brief examples - just the tip of the iceberg - of what it's been like to somehow try and continue on in life without Ashling being part of it.
This horrific, senseless, and completely evil taking of Ashling's life is our life sentence that we have to bear for the remainder of our lives – a sentence in which there is no parole.
Ashling was only 23 years old. She was still so young, she had so much more life and love to give; she was taken from us far too soon.
I think everybody can agree that 23 years can go by in the blink of an eye and yet the maximum sentence for taking someone's entire life and completely destroying the lives of their entire family in this country isn't even 23 years.
This quite simply has to be taken into consideration when sentencing this absolute indescribable waste of life by sentencing him to the absolute maximum number of years that’s possible, which in my opinion, in this country, is still nowhere near enough.
It just sickens me to the core that someone can come to this country, be fully supported in terms of social housing, social welfare, and free medical care for over 10 years - over 10 years - never hold down a legitimate job and never once contribute to society in any way shape or form [and] can commit such a horrendous, evil act of incomprehensible violence on such a beautiful, loving and talented person who in fact, worked for the State, educating the next generation and represented everything that is good about Irish society.
I feel like this country is no longer the country that Ashling and I grew up in and has officially lost its innocence when a crime of this magnitude can be perpetrated in broad daylight.
This country needs to wake up; this time things have got to change.
We have to, once and for all, start putting the safety of not only Irish people but everybody in this country who works hard, pays taxes, raises families and overall contributes to society, first.
We don't want to see any other family in this country go through what we have gone through and are continuing to go through.
I myself have a little sister and honestly, just the thought of her walking the streets of any village, town or city in this country alone makes me physically sick and quite frankly absolutely terrifies me as this country is simply not safe anymore.
This time, if real change does not happen, if the safety of people living in this country is further ignored, I'm afraid our country is heading down a very dangerous path and you can be certain that we will not be the last family to be in this position.
I don't think we will ever truly know why this evil, evil, description of a human being decided to take our Ashling from us but all I will say to you is this, you have no idea, nor did you ever and will never have any idea, the level of connection and love that Ashling and I shared.
- You have no idea what you have stolen from us.
- You have no idea how much Ashling meant to us.
- You have no idea of the love we had for each other.
- Because of you, I've lost my Ashling.
- Because of you, I've lost everything I've ever wanted in life.
- Because of you, 'I never get to marry my soulmate.
- Because of you, I will never hear her voice again.
- Because of you, I will never see her smile again.
- Because of you, I will have to somehow carry on without her.
- Because of you, I will have to remember her longer than I've known her.
I don't care where you end up, or what happens to you after today – but you smirked, you smiled, and you showed zero remorse throughout this trial, which sums up who you really are, the epitome of pure evil.
But one thing is for sure, you will never, ever harm or touch another woman ever again and when your day of reckoning comes, may you be in hell a whole half hour, before God even knows you're dead.