News Irish News

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Search for Jastine: Peaceful escape from city life left scarred by violent killing

Gardaí and members of the Defence Forces conduct searches at Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where the body of Jastine Valdez was found. Photo: Donal Farmer
Gardaí and members of the Defence Forces conduct searches at Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where the body of Jastine Valdez was found. Photo: Donal Farmer
Gardaí and members of the Defence Forces conduct searches at Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where the body of Jastine Valdez was found. Photo: Donal Farmer
Gardaí and members of the Defence Forces conduct searches at Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where the body of Jastine Valdez was found. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ian Begley and Robin Schiller

It was the news that nobody had hoped for, but that everyone had feared as the hours turned into days.

As people close to Jastine Valdez prayed she would turn up safe, the news that a body had been discovered yesterday afternoon would have shaken them to their core.

The 24-year-old had come to Ireland to live with her family three years ago.

Jastine would have left her native Philippines hoping for a better life as she dived into studies in a bid to make a life here.

Instead, her life ended in tragedy in the most violent way possible.

As the country was still coming to terms with the shocking murder of schoolgirl Ana Kriegel last week, another family were going through their own personal hell.

Disappearance

Like young Ana's initial disappearance, gardaí had grave concerns for Jastine's welfare within hours of her being reported missing.

Indeed, the nature of her disappearance, a random abduction on a country lane close to her home, was so rare in this country it immediately sent alarm bells ringing.

This was stressed by senior investigators at a media briefing on Sunday afternoon, in which they expressed grave concerns for Jastine's well-being.

The country road from which Jastine was taken is an isolated one with a small footpath on one side, but covered by large trees for most parts.

In comparison to the popular Powerscourt Estate nearby, visited by throngs of tourists and locals, the roadway along the Kilcroney Road is secluded.

It was also the last place where Jastine would be seen alive and unharmed.

As the hours went on, and no concrete news on the missing woman or suspect emerged, gardaí took the unprecedented step of releasing the full details and registration number of the vehicle involved.

Gardaí made a breakthrough, and tracked the suspect vehicle to a car park in the Cherrywood area of south Dublin.

A short time later suspect Mark Hennessy was shot dead.

The business park, normally quiet and empty on a Sunday evening, had become a frenzy within minutes.

All along the road leading from the motorway by the car park, dozens of vehicles - gardaí, press and spectators - lined the area.

However, despite the obvious chaos that had just unfolded, as clutches of people watched on, an eerie silence hung in the air.

Family of the fatally wounded suspect gathered at the scene, and the silence was broken only by the sobs of the desperate father who had lost his son in such unexpected circumstances.

The incident also had the potential to cause further heartache to the Valdez family, as with the shooting dead of the suspect in her disappearance, it was feared that this nightmare might drag out longer for Jastine's family.

As the man suspected of bundling her into his car was shot the answer to where missing Jastine was may have gone to the grave with him.

The young student's family now feared the worst, and this horrendous sequence of events moved into yesterday and searches in the foothills of the mountains in south Dublin.

The vast woodlands and walking trails in Rathmichael are an incredible amenity to have in our capital city.

The winding roads and breath-taking surroundings provide people with a sense of escape from city life on their doorsteps.

Shattered

That peaceful feeling was shattered yesterday as gardaí searched for the missing 24-year-old.

The calm was punctured by activity, the Garda helicopter overhead and the sight of crime scene tape stretching around the area.

Sniffer dogs and gardaí combed the extensive site throughout the morning and afternoon with the desperate hope of finding Jastine alive.

The frantic operation came just hours after father-of-two Mark Hennessy was gunned down by an armed officer.

Earlier that morning, many people on their way to work in Cherrywood Business Park stood at the scene where the shooting took place and shook their heads in disbelief.

While visibly shocked by the details that had come to light, their concern was solely focused on the well-being of the young college student.

"I just hope that poor girl is found alive and well - her family must be going through absolute hell," one man said.

Another woman on her way to work added: "It's something you really don't hear of in Ireland.

"With the abduction of this young woman and the death of the 14-year-old in Lucan I just don't know what the world is coming to."

Many others feared that the man's death would make the whereabouts of Jastine a mystery.

But pieces of the tragic case started to come together during the day when the young woman's purse was found at an unused golf course at Puck's Castle.

Then, shortly after 3pm, a body was discovered within an area of thick gorse about 50 metres from Puck's Castle Lane.

There was confirmation later yesterday evening that the remains were those of Jastine Valdez.

For a young woman to be abducted and forced into a car on the way home from work before being murdered is a scenario that's almost too horrific to put into words.

The student, in the prime of her life, had been killed in shocking circumstances.

And while the body found may certainly help investigating officers piece together this deplorable act, the misery for Jastine's family will continue.

Gardaí will now try and piece together the events that led to Jastine's lifeless body being callously dumped in a rural area of our capital city.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News