The normally bustling canal in Tullamore was quiet on Thursday as the town reacted to the killing of a young woman.
Ashling Murphy, a primary school teacher in Durrow National School in her 20s, was killed on Wednesday afternoon along the banks of the Grand Canal.
Locals have spoken of a sense of devastation, as well as confusion about the “randomness” of such an attack.
Rose Coyle, a pensioner, is a regular walker up and down the canal.
She said that the killing was “awful”.
Since the pandemic began the canal has been a resource and a respite for the local community, she said.
“You just don’t think things like that happen and there’s always so many people as well,” she told the PA news agency.
“The younger ones go out in the evening and after work or after school.
“It’s awful. Appalling. I think the randomness of it is the surprise element.”
Declan Harvey, a local Fianna Fáil councillor, said: “Everybody is shocked. Everyone is in bits about it.”
The family is well known in the local community for playing music, he said.
“The father plays in a local band and she was a great Irish musician,” Mr Harvey told PA.
Recently, he said Ms Murphy had brought a choir of children from her school to the town’s Christmas market.
He said women in the town are now “nervous, frightened and shocked”.
“I’m shocked, I’m heartbroken, I’m lost for words because this has hit the community so hard, it’s unreal.”
On Thursday morning Eugene Wall, president of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, tweeted that the college community was “shocked to the core” by the news of the death of the recent graduate.
Ray Larkin was among those who arrived early at the scene to pay silent respect to Ms Murphy.
He said the town felt “numb”.
“I knew her well and I knew her family very well,” he told PA.
He said that the canal is a source of pride in the town.
He added that nurses in the local hospital often finish a night shift and go for a walk along the canal.
“Now I feel the fear has gone into the community around here,” he said.
“It is so beautiful round here. Where are these people going to go now?”
Gardaí investigating the suspected murder of a young woman in Co Offaly say "no stone will be left unturned" in bringing her killer to justice.
Ashling Murphy, a primary school teacher in Tullamore aged in her 20s, was killed on Wednesday afternoon along the banks of the Grand Canal at Cappincur.
A 40-year-old man has been arrested and is being detained at Tullamore Garda Station.
Superintendent Eamonn Curley told reporters on Thursday: "This area here, where the crime occurred, is popular among Tullamore residents and is widely used for recreational purposes.
"The victim of this crime is Ashling Murphy.
"Ashling was a schoolteacher in Durrow National School.
"Immediately following the discovery of this crime, a full-scale murder investigation was launched."
Supt Eamonn Curley said: "At this stage, there is no information that the victim and her killer were known to each other.
Supt Curley said gardaí retain an "open mind", appealed to the public for assistance, and asked any witnesses to come forward.
Ms Murphy died after being attacked while she was jogging along the canal bank at Cappincur at around 4pm.
Declan Harvey, Fianna Fail councillor for the area, said: "I want to extend my sympathies to Ashling's father, mother and all her extended family.
"I am devastated. I couldn't sleep last night thinking of it all because it is a place I go all the time.
Mr Harvey said it is a route that he and his family often walk.
"Tullamore is probably the safest place in the world, and after yesterday people will be nervous to go down to the canal," he added.
"It's a lovely area and helps clear your head. It's a very popular route that everyone takes. People walk their dogs, people with their kids and prams."
Justice Minister Helen McEntee tweeted: "My thoughts tonight are with the family of the young woman killed in a truly shocking crime, with her friends and with her community.
Further Education Minister Simon Harris said: "A young woman, simply out for a run in the afternoon and brutally killed.
"Thinking of her and her family and community tonight and their unimaginable pain. We must all act to end violence against women.
The Office of the State Pathologist and the Garda Technical Bureau have been notified, and an incident room has been set up at Tullamore Garda Station.
Over 50 gardaí are working on the investigation.
Gardaí are appealing for information, and asked anyone who was in the Cappincur/Canal walk area of Tullamore before 4pm on Wednesday to make contact with them.
Minister of State Josepha Madigan for Special Education and Inclusion said: "A young woman can't even go for a run along a canal pathway - at four o'clock, in the middle of the day - only to be attacked and murdered.
"Sincere sympathies to her family. We need to urgently address why we live in a country where this can happen."