Wednesday 16 January 2019

Paul Williams: Detectives face complex task of tracking Hennessy's secret life

Jastine Valdez (right) who was abducted and murdered by Mark Hennessy (left)
Jastine Valdez (right) who was abducted and murdered by Mark Hennessy (left)
Mark Hennessy, suspected abducter
Paul Williams

Paul Williams

The discovery of the body of Jastine Valdez, discarded in a disused golf course, confirmed everyone’s worst fears that she had been murdered in an act of inexplicable, mind-numbing savagery.

It marked the end of what was a dark week for our ordered society.

Two completely innocent, defenceless young women – student Jastine (24) and Anastasia Kriegel, a 14-year-old schoolgirl – had their lives ripped from them in separate but equally barbarous circumstances which defy comprehension.

Last night forensic experts and pathologists were still involved in the process of determining how Jastine met her gruesome death at the hands of Mark Hennessy who was shot dead by gardaí on Sunday evening. 

That will then provide a large portion of the ongoing Garda investigation, which will seek to establish all the facts to produce a comprehensive picture of what happened between the time Jastine was abducted on Saturday evening and the location of her remains yesterday afternoon.

But that will be the easy, formulaic aspect of the investigation which has left one crucial and extremely difficult question to answer: Why?

Why did construction worker Mark Hennessy, a father of two children including a young baby, essentially a Mr Nobody, get into his partner’s SUV last weekend and then commit such a shocking and horrific crime?

What was the motivational trigger that propelled him to snatch a defenceless woman from the side of a lonely country road and take her away?

As a consequence of his actions when confronted by the gardaí, Hennessy is not around to offer any explanations.

Detectives are now facing into the complex and difficult task of piecing together Hennessy’s secret life to find out why he did this.

They will begin the process of tracing his footsteps, through 40 years of life, to find out if he had ever done this before and managed to slip beneath the radar like random, lone-wolf killers often do.

The manner of the abduction is indicative of an opportunistic, chaotic crime where the assailant acted on an irresistible impulse; a type of catastrophic psychological meltdown.

Was there a trigger that set off a pathological malfunction which had lain dormant within him?

Or the motive could be even darker than that.

Was he a predator who was deliberately driving through back country roads, intent on finding and abducting a lone female?

There is little or no CCTV coverage in most isolated, rural areas such as the Wicklow Mountains.

If it hadn’t been for the eye witnesses who spotted Jastine being taken away, her body might not have been found and he could have slipped back into his role as Mr Anonymous.

The process will involve interviews with everyone he knew: work mates, clients, family, friends.

Detectives will want to know what he said and how he behaved as they try to ascertain his state of mind in the run-up to last weekend’s appalling actions.

The two horrific murders which we have just witnessed has the effect of instilling fear and deep shock in a society.

This isn’t gangland violence; this is a symptom of a much more complex problem.

The part that most concerns people, particularly women, is that the killer of Jastine was regarded as a “normal” functioning member of society.

When an anonymous, “normal” architect from suburbia called Graham Dwyer was exposed as a vile, psycho-sexual killer, people were both fascinated and shocked by that very fact.

The fact that he could be so unremarkable, while at the same time hiding the monstrous creature that dwelled within him, is something I like to call the “twig in the forest” phenomenon.

When Mark Hennessy climbed into his Jeep on Saturday afternoon he embarked on a journey of unfathomable human destruction.

For his act of evil not only ended the life of his victim as well as his own, it has also destroyed the lives of a great many others.

Jastine’s grief-stricken family are unlikely to ever recover from the trauma

and pain of what has happened in recent days.

We must also be cognisant of the other innocent people swallowed up in this maelstrom.

These include the killer’s partner, his parents, his family – all of whom are suffering unimaginable pain which will never go away.

Then there are his children who are too young to know of the turmoil around them.

And of course there is the brave Garda detective who made the split-second, life-changing decision to shoot Hennessy.

The officer concerned is a hugely respected and conscientious garda who was doing a dangerous job for the protection of the society he serves.

When he squeezed the trigger he believed there was a real threat to life. It was believed Hennessy had his victim in the car and was about to kill her with a knife.

His colleagues say the garda has been left distraught – but if it is of any consolation, he should know that most right-thinking people will be in his corner.

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