POLICE investigating the murder of teacher Ashling Murphy are closing in on a fresh suspect.
Cops are conducting house searches to gather key DNA evidence as they frantically hunt for the killer.
The suspect presented himself at a hospital with facial injuries and was last night still undergoing treatment.
He lives outside of the Irish town of Tullamore, where Ashling's body was discovered after she had been out jogging, and is believed to have travelled to Dublin after the young teacher’s murder.
Once there, he’s understood to have stayed at a house in the south of the city while hurt before an associate brought him to hospital.
As part of their investigation, officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation searched the south Dublin pad on Friday night and seized several items of clothing.
Gardai were able to get DNA from the suspect's clothing at the hospital after obtaining a warrant.
Cops will now work to see if this is a match with DNA already recovered as part of their probe.
It’s also understood detectives have received forensic evidence and fingerprints from a Falcon Storm mountain bike they recovered close to the scene of the crime.
Gardai are trying to identify a man captured on CCTV riding a very similar bike in the vicinity around the time of the murder.
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Detectives — who have been left shocked by the violent nature of the attack — also believe that Ashling may have obtained her killer’s DNA during her brave attempt to fight him off.
Cops are investigating if the killer had been stalking potential victims along the canal in Tullamore 24 hours before she was brutally murdered.
This comes after a woman in her 40s claimed she was approached by a man on a bicycle just two hours before the attack on Ashling at the canal bank in Cappincur last Wednesday afternoon.
A source said: “It’s very concerning that Ashling’s killer could have been in the same area trying to identify other innocent women.
“This was a random and barbaric attack on a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”
A Garda spokesperson said: “We have received a lot of information from the public since the fatal assault on Ashling Murphy at 4pm on Wednesday, January 12.
“All of that information needs to be checked and cross-checked to see if it is relevant to the ongoing investigation.
“We’re still encouraging people to come forward with information and we will decide how relevant it is.
“We would like to thank the members of the public who have already come forward with some information.”
The Sun can also reveal that a man known to the suspect called into a north Dublin police station to inform officers he had just dropped his associate off at the hospital.
Officers in Dublin then contacted colleagues in Tullamore, who promptly travelled to the capital.
Once cleared to do so by medics, gardai hope to interview the man over the coming days.
Detectives will also speak to his family and friends to try and establish the details of his movements in recent weeks.
They will also draw up a profile of the suspect to establish if he has any history of violence.
As they await news of the suspect’s medical condition, gardai are continuing to trawl through CCTV images in a bid to gather the suspect’s movements.
A source added: “Good progress is being made in the investigation and it would be the gardai’s hope that this individual could be interviewed over the coming days.
“A lot of evidence has already been gathered and efforts remain ongoing to obtain more evidence in the investigation.”
A dedicated phone line – 057 9357060 – was set up on Friday for people to report information.
Meanwhile, runners across Ireland paused in Ashling’s memory yesterday as vigils continued both nationwide and in London.
Park Run participants in the Republic, Northern Ireland and beyond held moments of silence before setting off at 9am yesterday.
Thousands also gathered in Cork for a vigil and walk, with more planned in Kilkenny, Athlone, Greystones, Sligo and Birr today.
Director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, Mary Crilly, said the turnout at the Atlantic Pond near GAA ground Pairc Ui Chaoimh was phenomenal.
Two walks took place in Ashling’s native Offaly along the Grand Canal in Rhode and Edenderry, while in Smithfield in Dublin, another vigil drew huge numbers.
And even further afield, a huge crowd gathered in London, England, in solidarity with Ashling’s family.
They told how they were “appreciative and overwhelmed by the national outpouring of support shown to them” after attending vigils in Tullamore on Friday.
A lot of evidence has already been gathered and efforts remain ongoing to obtain more evidence in the investigation.
Londoners held candles and stood in silent tribute outside the capital's Irish Centre, while large numbers queued in Camden Square to sign a book of condolence and lay flowers.
Traditional music was played in honour of Ashling, a talented fiddle player, while some of the sombre crowd quietly sang or hummed along.
Anna Johnston, cultural officer at the London Irish Centre, said people there had come together in solidarity with those who knew and loved Ashling “and all the women of Ireland and further afield who are angry, distressed and heartbroken”.
Addressing the crowd, she added: "Today, along with Ashling, we remember all the women who have had their lives stolen through gender-based violence.
"We shouldn’t be here, and Ashling should be."
A minute’s silence was held, after which the young teacher’s favourite song, When You Were Sweet Sixteen, was sung.
Her father Raymond Murphy had tearfully played the tune on the banjo in tribute to his youngest daughter at a vigil on Friday near the scene of her murder.
Vigils were also planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh, in Scotland, as well as for Brisbane, Australia.
The scenes echoed events held last year in London when crowds gathered in memory of young marketing executive Sarah Everard and school teacher Sabina Nessa — two women who were fatally attacked while they were out walking in the English capital.
A small sign placed near the entrance to the London Irish Centre bore their names and those of other women who have died, under the letters “RIP”.
A steady stream of people laid flowers and candles as darkness fell.
One floral tribute left outside the centre read: “Your beautiful life was stolen by evil. You deserved so much better. May your soul live on in music.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein will this week demand that the Government implement urgent law changes to eliminate violence against women.
Party President Mary Lou McDonald yesterday announced they will bring forward a Private Member’s Bill in the Dáil outlining what they say needs to be done.
The motion sets out key policies needed to ensure such crimes are prevented and to end gender-based harassment and violence.
Speaking yesterday, McDonald said: “The entire country is reeling from this horrendous attack which has seen a woman’s life cut short.
“As we have seen at vigils across the country in recent nights, women and girls are deeply affected by this devastating attack and are united in their desire for change.
“Violence against women and girls, and the fear of it, is far too common and blights the lives of women and girls across the country.”
The Sinn Fein President described violence against women as an “epidemic” and said Ashling’s murder must be a “tipping point”.
She added: “Now is the time for us to come together to say enough is enough.
“Sinn Fein are bringing a motion to the Dáil next week to stand with women and girls, and to call on the Government to expedite the strategies, resources and funding needed to tackle and end violence against women.
“Crucial to this will be the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
“The Government must publish the strategy, and we need to see an integrated and fully resourced implementation plan.”
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