Saturday 23 June 2018

Community left struggling to come to terms with senseless, vicious attack on Jastine Valdez as 'normal life' resumes

Hushed whispers reveal quiet devastation of a village shaken to core by random act of evil, writes Nicola Anderson

Abbey Russell places some flowers at the entrance to Powerscourt close to where Jastine Valdez was abducted. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Abbey Russell places some flowers at the entrance to Powerscourt close to where Jastine Valdez was abducted. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Crowds at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Myla Malayao from Bray originally from IlIgan City at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Candles and flowers surround a photograph of the murdered girl. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

BY mid-afternoon, the Garda cordon had been lifted on the leafy country road and to all outward appearances, normal life in Enniskerry resumed.

Coaches full of bright-faced tourists swept around the turn up to Powerscourt, oblivious as to the horror that had transpired here just a few short days ago.

Against the hedgerows of lush vegetation, only those with a sharp eye would have noticed the vivid display of flowers, the purple daisies, the red roses and the yellow dahlias, left quietly by the roadside by devastated members of the community in tribute to the gentle young woman snatched from their midst.

As the Garda vans and personnel departed the scene, the village resumed an air of tranquillity, with daytrippers enjoying the sunshine at the outside tables of tea shops. But it was at surface level only.

Candles and flowers surround a photograph of the murdered girl. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Candles and flowers surround a photograph of the murdered girl. Picture; Gerry Mooney

The hushed conversation among the locals centred solely on the devastating act of apparently random violence perpetrated without rhyme or reason and which has shaken everyone to their core.

A very real sense of fear remains at the violation of their home and their community.

Myla Malayao from Bray originally from IlIgan City at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Myla Malayao from Bray originally from IlIgan City at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney

How could this happen on an early summer's evening, to a young woman who had just got off a bus and was walking home to enjoy a relaxing evening with her parents?

Amid such senselessness, local people are struggling to come to terms with it.

Anne Russell, who lives in Enniskerry, came to the makeshift roadside shrine with her daughter, Abbie, to lay a bouquet of red roses in memory of Jastine Valdez (24).

As the mother-of-four daughters in all, she said that this incident has left all local women fearful and upset.

Crowds at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Crowds at the vigil for Jastine. Picture; Gerry Mooney

"We all thought this place was safe - it is safe," she corrected herself, saying that she reasoned with herself that such an incident is highly unlikely to happen again. But, nevertheless, what happened here will never be forgotten, she said.

"It's such a happy place - people come here to have a nice time. There are lots of tourists and weddings take place in Powerscourt," explained Anne of the area.

"We just never imagined that anything like this could happen here.

"I feel so sorry for Jastine and for her family."

Just a few moments later, a car stopped at the shrine and a schoolboy in a Gaelic jersey got out and left a pot of purple daisies.

Poignantly, the road where Jastine was brutally snatched by Mark Hennessy last Saturday evening was a neighbourhood watch area, a sign on the roadside instructed. But so sudden and vicious was the abduction, she hadn't stood a chance.

Gripped by sorrow, the people of north Wicklow are trying to assist in practical ways, with a fund set up to repatriate Jastine's remains to the Philippines already standing at €70,000 in a matter of hours.

A book of condolence was opened at the Powerscourt Arms hotel in the village, alongside a radiant photograph of the accountancy student, with candles burning brightly on the small table.

Another online book of condolence has been opened by Wicklow County Council.

While last night, as Jastine's heartbroken parents were identifying the body of their daughter, an emotional vigil was taking place at the Clock Tower in Enniskerry as locals, notably women, came together in their grief. Whether Irish or Filipino, many spoke of their terror to walk these scenic roads alone now; of their anger they had been made to feel this way about their beautiful village where they had once felt safe.

Filipino priest Fr Rene Esoy said families in the community were fearful and were warning their daughters not to walk alone anymore.

"The roads here," he indicated, making motions of sweeping trees. "Even I was a little nervous."

"Yes we are afraid," admitted one Filipino girl who did not want to be identified but who said she was 25. "I would not want to walk alone now here."

Myla Malayao, who had organised the previous night's vigil in Bray, agreed that all women in the community are now afraid.

"We were already paranoid before Jastine was killed," she said, about the brutal slaying of Ana Kriegel (14) in Lucan. "We were already afraid - then this happened."

As they gathered together, Filipinos in Enniskerry explained they had felt the spirit of 'Bayanihan' sweep their community since Jastine's death.

The word is the equivalent of the American expression 'barn raising', or of putting the shoulder to the wheel together, they said. "It means coming together and helping each other," said one woman.

With this spirit in mind, many people spoke of the need to forgive and of their mindful compassion for the Hennessy family who are also victims in this, the woman added.

Irish Independent

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