Thursday 21 November 2019

Inquest hears heartbreaking circumstances of Jastine's death

The late Jastine Valdez
The late Jastine Valdez

Mary Fogarty

'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.'

These were the words of Teresita and Danilo Valdez in a statement read out after an inquest into the death of their daughter.

Last Monday in Dublin, the jury at the Coroner's court returned a verdict of unlawful killing into the death of Jastine Valdez.

The 24-year-old woman, a native of the Philipines who was living in Enniskerry at the time, was walking along road in the village on the evening of May 19, 2018, when Mark Hennessy (40) forced her into his car.

She had just alighted from a bus after meeting an immigration garda in Bray, going to the gym, and buying bread for her mother. She had been in contact with her mother throughout the day.

The loaf of bread and a smashed mobile phone were found at the site of her abduction.

A woman who witnessed the abduction called 999, and a man later saw Ms Valdez in the back of Hennessy's Nissan Qashqai. A nationwide garda alert ensued and Hennessy was ultimately shot dead the following day at Cherrywood. A blood-stained note in the vehicle revealed only the words 'Puck's Castle', which was where Jastine's remains were found.

The inquest heard in a deposition made by Hennessy's wife Nicola, who was not present, that she last saw him at around 5.25 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018. He took her car to go and purchase a bottle of wine.

Between 5.45 p.m. and 6 p.m., Hennessy told his wife that he would meet his cousin for a pint. He stopped answering calles and did not return home.

He finally answered the phone at around 8 a.m. the following morning. He said he had slept at the seafront and would be home soon. At that stage, he had already abducted and killed Jastine Valdez the previous evening. Gardaí called to the house that morning and Nicola texted Hennessy saying that they wanted to speak to him in relation to an abduction. She got no reply. 'That's the last contact I had with him,' she said in her deposition.

Detective Superintendent Frank Keeneghan said that gardaí had carried out extensive examinations of the phones and social media profiles of Ms Valdez and Hennessy. No prior link between them was discovered.

Witness Susan Forsyth told the inquest that she was passing the vehicle parked on the R760 at around 6.15 p.m. that evening. She heard screaming, slapping and a man 'shouting angrily'. She said that she saw a woman being pushed into the boot of the car.

Another witness, Gareth Thomspon, said that he was driving northbound on the N11 shortly after 6.15 p.m. when he saw a woman in the back of a Nissan Qashqai, He wasn't sure if she was screaming or waving. After speaking to his wife, she said he should contact the gardai and he reported what he had seen to Bray Garda Staation.

The cause of death, according to deputy state pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan, was asphyxia through external pressure on the neck. A very low level of cocaine was found in her system, which may have been ingested in the hours prior to her death.

Ms Valdez's boyfriend Joseph Squire said that she never took drugs and 'was way too innocent for anything like that'.

Witness Christina Connolly had read about the search for the vehicle on the Irish Independent app. The day after the abduction, she saw the vehicle, contacted gardai and followed the car to Cherrywood.

Hennessy drove into Cherrywood Business Park where he was later shot by a garda.

'The image of that beautiful young woman remains with us,' said coroner Dr Myra Cullinane. 'It is inconceivable how her parents can bear the loss of their only child. We've had a glimpse of the person that Jastine was and it is tragic that she's been so cruelly taken in this way.'

A spokeswoman for the Valdez family read a statement after the proceedings, in which Danilo and Teresita Valdez said that their daughter 'was beautiful inside and out'.

'Jastine grew up in a way that every parents wishes for their child,' they said.

'In her younger years she was well-mannered, she finished her undergraduate degree in the Philippines before coming to Ireland.

'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.

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

Wicklow People