Sunday 17 November 2019

'We will never understand how such evil can exist in the world' - family of Jastine Valdez following inquest into her death

  • Jury returns verdict of unlawful killing at inquest
  • Jastine Valdez inquest: Witness saw man 'shouting angrily' and pushing woman into SUV on day she disappeared
  • Inquest hears evidence of family and friends who were last in contact with Jastine on day she was reported missing
  • Toxicology tests found 'very low levels of cocaine' in her system
  • Joseph Squire, who had been dating Jastine at the time, described her as the 'most innocent person' he had ever met, adding she 'didn’t deserve any of this'
Jastine Valdez
Jastine Valdez
Tess and Danny Valdez, the parents of murdered Jastine Valdez pictured with family at the one year anniversary at Blessed Sacrement Chapel Bachelors Walk Dublin Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Jastine Valdez
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

THE parents of Jastine Valdez have said they will “never understand how such evil can exist in the world” following the inquest into the death of the young student.

Danilo and Teresita Valdez paid an emotional tribute to their daughter who they described as ‘the sweetest and most caring’ to her family and friends.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing at the inquest into the death of Jastine Valdez, who was abducted from Enniskerry on May 19, 2018.

The Valdez family said their only child, who was known as Jeryl to her loved ones, “was beautiful inside and out.

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“Jastine grew up in a way that every parents wishes for their child,” the Valdez family said in a statement.

“In her younger years she was well-mannered , she finished her undergraduate degree in the Philippines before coming to Ireland. To her family she was the sweetest, the most caring to her cousins and friends.

“She was respectful to others. A God-fearing child. A young lady who had dreams and worked hard to fulfil them. And yet in such tragic circumstances, she is gone too young too soon,” they said.

The family also acknowledged “the tireless work” of the Coroner, Gardaí, and the Pathologist and many others involved.

However, Danilo and Terisita Valdez said that they are left with many questions that will stay with them forever.

“We will never know why this happened. We will never understand how such evil can exist in the world. Our tears will never stop when we think of our beautiful Jastine.

Tess and Danny Valdez, the parents of murdered Jastine Valdez pictured with family at the one year anniversary at Blessed Sacrement Chapel Bachelors Walk Dublin Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Tess and Danny Valdez, the parents of murdered Jastine Valdez pictured with family at the one year anniversary at Blessed Sacrement Chapel Bachelors Walk Dublin Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

“Our grief will never pass, the loss of our beautiful Jastine will never fade, we will never have peace. Time itself cannot heal the pain we have.

“Jastine was our life and when she was taken away, our world ended. We try to smile, but in our hearts we are still crying,” the family said.

At today's inquest, the  wife of Mark Hennessy spoke to her husband the morning after Jastine Valdez was abducted while gardai were searching for him, an inquest into the student’s death has heard.

The body of Jastine Valdez (24) was recovered two days later in gorse at Puck’s Castle in Rathmichael in south Dublin.

Jastine Valdez
Jastine Valdez

The inquest has been hearing evidence of family and friends who were last in contact with her on the day she was reported missing.

The abduction sparked a nationwide Garda alert and Mark Hennessy (40) was shot dead by a detective garda after being confronted at the Cherrywood Business Park.

A statement read out at the Dublin Coroner’s Court this morning heard how Nicola Hennessy returned to her home in Bray at 5.10pm with her Nissan Qashqai on May 19.

She said Mark Hennessy told her he was going to the shop for a bottle of wine and left at around 5.25pm.

She spoke to him on the mobile phone between 5.45pm and 6pm and he said that he was at "the Seafront meeting his cousin for a pint".

Ms Hennessy attempted to contact her husband a number of times that evening but could not get through, and he never returned home that night.

She said that after numerous phone calls the next morning he answered at around 8am and Ms Hennessy asked her husband where he had stayed.

He told her he had slept at the Seafront that night, which she took to mean Bray, and that he would "be home soon".

Gardai had called to the house the previous evening at 10.20pm saying the Nissan Qashqai was wanted in relation to an incident, but Ms Hennessy said in her statement that gardai would not give her any further details.

When speaking to Mark Hennessy on the morning of May 20, she asked her husband if he had been in a traffic collision.

"He said ‘no it’s fine’ and that was the last contact I had with him," Ms Hennessy, who was not present at the inquest, said.

The inquest also heard this afternoon that Ms Valdez had "very low levels" of cocaine in her system at the time of her death.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan gave evidence of a post mortem examination carried out on Ms Valdez on the evening of May 21, 2018.

In her evidence Dr Mulligan gave the cause of the death as asphyxia through external pressure on the neck.

Dr Mulligan also said that toxicology tests found "very low levels of cocaine" in her system which may have been ingested in the hours before she passed away.

The Deputy State Pathologist said she could not give a definitive reason as to how the drug was consumed other than that it happened shortly before she passed away.

The inquest had earlier heard evidence from Joseph Squire, who was in a relationship with Ms Valdez at the time of her death, in which he said that the 24-year-old student "never took drugs and was way too innocent for anything like that."

In distressing evidence given about the post mortem examination Dr Mulligan spent close to ten minutes detailing the injuries sustained by Ms Valdez.

The most serious were the injuries to her neck while bruising and abrasions were also sustained to her face and body.

Dr Mulligan said it was "very likely" Ms Valdez died shortly after being abducted and that given her height and stature she would have died quickly.

Gardai have also been giving evidence about the recovery of her remains in a thick gorse off a laneway at Puck’s Castle, south Dublin at around at around 3pm on Monday, May 21.

Prior to the beginning of today’s inquest, Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane acknowledged the presence of members of the Valdez family, including her parents Teresita and Danilo, on what she said would be a "difficult day" for them.

"I hope you will be able to bear with us as we go through this sad evidence," Dr Cullinane told members of the Valdez family.

The Coroner also told the six-person jury that, although the facts heard today deal with the death of Jastine Valdez, they are "closely connected" to another person, but that today their task was solely to make findings relating to the death of Ms Valdez.   

Evidence was read to the court from Susan Forsyth, who said that at around 6.15pm on May 19 she was driving past Powerscourt on the R760 when she noticed a dark coloured car with no lights on parked along the road. 

The boot was open and she heard shouting and began to feel something was terribly wrong. After passing the car she heard screaming, slapping noises and a male "shouting angrily." Ms Forsyth said she saw an "Asian" woman who she thought was aged in her 30s or 40s being pushed into the boot of the car.

Eye witness Gareth Thompson gave evidence that a short time later he was driving northbound on the N11 behind a black Nissan Qashqai, driven by a man with tight cut or shaven hair, and noticed what he described as a little girl in the back of the Jeep.

He said it looked like she was screaming or waving and it did not look like she was crying but that there was a "concerned" look on her face, adding she didn’t look comfortable.

The SUV pulled off into a lay by and Mr Thompson overtook the car. He waited for it to pass again but it did not. The witness returned home and spoke to his wife about the incident, saying he wasn’t sure if the female in the rear of the vehicle was waving. His wife told him if he had a gut feeling that he should contact Gardai, and Mr Thompson reported the matter to Bray garda station.

A statement taken on the day of the disappearance from Jastine’s mother, Teresita, was read to the court in which she said she last spoke to her daughter on 4.20pm. She said they exchanged around 63 messages that day, mainly joking with one another.

The last message she sent Jastine was on Facebook messenger asking her to pick up bread from SuperValu in Bray on her way home from Ben Dunne gym at the Cherrywood Business Park. Teresita Valdez described her daughter as being "happy and healthy" and that she was good at keeping in contact with her.   

Witness Christina Connolly said that she was in work at around 7pm on May 20 when she read the Irish Independent app and read a story containing details of a car being sought in connection with the disappearance of a woman in Enniskerry.

She left work at around 7.38pm and as she passed the Loughlinstown roundabout came across a Nissan Qashqai matching the vehicle described in media reports.

Ms Connolly rang 999 and stayed behind the vehicle. The witness said she thought the driver of the SUV had spotted her as he was looking in his rear view mirror. She said it appeared there were two people in the car wearing baseball caps and followed the car towards Cherrywood.

Ms Connolly said she asked the dispatcher "where’s the back up" and said she was fearful for her safety as she believed the person or persons in the car may have weapons.

As the car pulled into the Luas car park at Cherrywood the witness stopped and waited for Gardai. Two undercover Garda vehicles entered a short time later and Ms Connolly then left the scene, noting a large number of emergency service vehicles in the car park as she left.   

Gda Denis Doherty gave evidence that on May 19, 2018, Jastine Valdez arrived at Bray Garda Station at 2pm for a scheduled appointment to renew her Garda ID card. The court heard how Jastine was "happy in Ireland and looking forward to becoming an Irish citizen in the future" and that she did not appear in any distress.

Gda Shane Carberry said that he drove to the scene of the abduction after a 999 call was received of a woman being pulled into the boot of a black SUV. The Air Support Unit was dispatched and Gda Carberry said CCTV from Enniskerry village was canvassed to gather further details of the vehicle involved. He said a shopping bag with a loaf of bread inside was recovered near the scene of the reported abduction.

The garda said they "realised the seriousness of what they were dealing with" when Jastine’s parents arrived at Bray garda station to report their daughter missing. 

A statement read to the court from Joseph Squire, who had been dating Jastine at the time, described her as the "most innocent person" he had ever met.

They first came into contact in the summer of 2017 and had been dating at the time of her disappearance.

Mr Squire said Jastine was "perfectly healthy and innocent" which he said "brings a tear to my eye because she is literally the most innocent person I’ve ever met and ever will meet." He added that she "didn’t deserve any of this."

A jury has returned a verdict of unlawful killing at the inquest into the death of Jastine Valdez.

The 24-year-old student was abducted from Enniskerry on May 19, 2018 and her remains were discovered two days later in thick gorse at Puck’s Castle in Rathmichael, sourh Dublin.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that the cause of death was recorded as asphyxia through external pressure.

The jury took less than half an hour to return a verdict of unlawful killing into the death of Ms Valdez.

Det Supt Frank Keeneghan also told the inquest that analysis was carried out of phones and social media accounts linked to Jastine Valdez and the suspect Mark Hennessy.

However, despite extensive examinations being carried out, Det Supt Keeneghan said gardai could find “no prior links” between Ms Valdez and Hennessy. 

Several items belonging to the accountancy student, including her smashed phone and purse, had been recovered after her abduction, but the inquest heard that her iPad was never located.

Gardai also heard that a heavily blood stained note recovered in Mark Hennessy’s Nissan Qashqai at Cherrywood Business Park led officers to search an area in Rathmichael.

Det Supt Keeneghan said that most of the note was illegible, but that the words  ‘Pucks Castle’ were legible.

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