THOUSANDS of mourners have attended an emotional vigil for Ashling Murphy who was killed by a stranger while she was out jogging.
They descended on Town Park on the edge of Tullamore, Ireland, on Friday evening pledging to send “solidarity and support” to the Murphy family.
Irish police are still searching for the killer of the 23-year-old, who was found dead on Wednesday after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in the Co Offaly town.
During the hour-long vigil, people cried, clutched candles, and quietly clapped as prayers were said and music was played.
As the light dimmed, traditional Irish music – played by Ashling’s friends and former teachers – formed the centrepiece of the service.
Attracta Brady, who was the young woman’s first fiddle teacher, played alongside others as they performed two songs Ashling would have done with her trad group.
She described her protégé as a “fabulous musician”.
“She was the most beautiful girl inside and out,” Ms Brady said.
“She was a parent’s dream. She was everything you’d want in a daughter. She had integrity, she was honest, she was trustworthy.
“She was quirky and a little bit cheeky sometimes with the loveliest smile and she’d get away with it because she had this beautiful twinkly smile.
“She was never in bad humour, she was always smiling and she absolutely loved her fiddle.
“Her parents only told me yesterday that she never had to be told to practice. She was bright and energetic and everybody loved her.”
Prayers were said for Ashling’s family, friends, and pupils as well as for all women who have suffered violence.
A local priest, Father Joe Gallagher, addressed the vigil before calling for a minute’s silence.
He told the gathering: “We remember her heartbroken family, her colleagues in work, in music, in sport, in friendship and her young pupils in first class who loved their teacher.
“This is a time of grief beyond words. We need to be together. We need to support one another in this dark time.
“We stand together, united with groups all over our country, and indeed beyond, united with women who fear and know the trauma of violence. United in grief, in anger, in shock.
“In this dark evening we want to hold a light in our hands, to stand together in solidarity with one another to share our tears and deep grief. Time to pray, to reflect, to listen, to be together.”
Women at the vigil shared their anger and disappointment.
Tullamore local Roslyn Kavanagh said: “I feel that this shouldn’t happen at all in society. And as a woman, I have felt, in places, insecure and vulnerable and as a woman I should not feel like that.”
Roslyn’s friend Chloe Galvin said: “I, too, am a young woman in my 20s. I have walked that canal line many a times by myself, with friends and family. It is one thing you never think about being out in daylight: is someone going to attack me?
“We are taught as young women, on nights out, you stay with your friends. You never leave them, you text them to make sure they get home safe. Now we’re going to be expected to do that in daylight.
“Now we have a plan in work that we’re all going to walk each other to our cars and make sure everyone is okay, and have a group chat (asking), ‘Have you gotten home OK?’
“It shouldn’t be like that. The reason why I’m here is that it is time for women to make a stand and go, ‘No more, we’re done’.
“We have to be treated equally to men.”
Ashling’s grieving parents Kathleen and Ray, and her sister Amy and brother Cathal, linked arms as they attended a separate candlelit vigil later in the evening near the spot where the teacher was killed.
In a tribute to his youngest daughter, Ray played her favourite song, When You Were Sweet Sixteen, on the banjo.
The talented musician, who worked at Durrow National School, was exercising along a well-known route when she was targeted.
Police believe she died in an unprovoked and random attack.