Gardaí fear Jastine was random victim; Murder probe as body set to be identified

Gardaí are to conduct a detailed examination of the mobile phones and digital devices of Mark Hennessy and Jastine Valdez to determine if there was any contact between them — but suspect she may have been a completely random victim.

If the attack is confirmed to be random, gardaí may also examine Hennessy, a married father of two young children, in relation to other unsolved attacks or missing person cases.

The development comes as the garda search operation for Ms Valdez yesterday turned to a murder investigation with the discovery of a female body in dense gorse in the Rathmichael area of south Co Dublin.

While the body was in the process of being formally identified last night, gardaí believe the remains are those of the 24-year-old Filipino student.

Hennessy, aged 40, is suspected of abducting Ms Valdez as she walked home in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, at 6.20pm on Saturday and killing her soon afterwards.

A preliminary autopsy was conducted at the scene, completing at around 8pm, which did not identify any obvious marks on the body.

Sources suggested this could suggest possible strangulation but the cause of death will not be known until a full autopsy this morning at the city morgue. The body was removed from the Puck’s Castle Lane area before dark.

Gardaí at the scene at Puck’s Castle, Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where a body was discovered in dense gorse. While the body was being formally identified last night, gardaí believe the remains are those of the 24-year-old Filipino student Jastine Valdez. A full post mortem will be conducted this morning. Picture: Stephen Collins

Indications suggested Ms Valdez may have been dead for 36 to 48 hours, which would tally with reports from an eyewitness that a Nissan jeep was seen in the area at around 7pm on Saturday.

It is not known yet if there was a sexual assault. Some of Ms Valdez’s clothes were pulled up, but sources said this could have been caused by dragging her through the gorse.

Ms Valdez was an only child and her parents, who reported her missing late on Saturday night, were informed of the discovery by their garda family liaison officer.

The grim find came at the end of almost two days of searches and some 20 hours after Hennessy was fatally shot by a detective.

Slightly different reports emerged from garda sources as to the events leading to the shooting, but a number of them suggest Hennessy, armed with a knife, ran at a garda.

Garda sources said detectives are trained to “shoot to stop” by aiming at the upper body as shooting at arms or legs may not incapacitate an attacker. It was also pointed out that local detectives do not have Tasers.

CCTV from the scene, at Cherrywood business park, in south Dublin, is being examined — and the entire event is now under investigation by GSOC, as required by law.

Garda search efforts focused on the Rathmichael region yesterday morning after they were able to download satnav history from the Nissan Qasqhai being driven by Hennessy.

The search team found a purse, with Ms Valdez’s ID card inside, along with an item of clothing at the Puck’s Castle Lane area at around mid-morning.

Approaching 3.30pm, the team was cutting back branches at a section of dense gorse and could see a woman’s body.

Mark Hennessy, from Wicklow, who was shot dead by gardaí.

Detectives are now conducting a “deeper” examination of devices of Hennessy and Ms Valdez to see if there was any contact between them.

However, sources said that, as it stood, they appeared not to have known each other and that Ms Valdez just happened to be walking along the road when Hennessy was passing in his wife’s jeep.

“Yes, they will check his laptops and phones to see if he had any contact with her,” said a garda source, “and they have downloaded her phone and will examine that, but there is nothing at the moment [to suggest they knew each other].

There will be a deeper examination now, but it appears to be random, no connection.

This will leave garda investigators with the scenario that Hennessy abducted a complete stranger from the roadside, in broad daylight, without any care of being seen, which he was.

When investigators called to the Hennessy home in Woodbrook, Bray, before lunchtime on Sunday, they were told Hennessy had driven off in his wife’s car at around 5pm on Saturday.

The car was caught on CCTV passing through Enniskerry village at 6pm.

Sources said Hennessy, a building sub-contractor, had no criminal record and initial inquiries did not reveal anything untoward about him.

Murder probe as body set to be identified

Garda efforts to save abducted woman, Jastine Valdez, turned to a murder investigation yesterday after the body of a young woman was found hidden in dense gorse in a remote part of south Dublin.

While the body was in the process of being formally identified last night, gardaí believe the remains are those of the 24-year-old Filipino student.

The grim find came at the end of almost two days of searches and some 20 hours after Mark Hennessy, suspected of abducting Ms Valdez, was fatally shot by a detective.

The discovery of a body in a large section of thick gorse in the Puck’s Castle Lane area of Rathmichael was made at around 3.30pm yesterday.

Around 100 people, including Civil Defence, the Defence Forces, the Garda sniffer dog unit, and the Divisional Search Team conducted sweeps in the general Puck’s Castle Lane and Kiltiernan Lead Mines area.

Ms Valdez’s purse, containing her ID card, and an item of clothing were recovered near Puck’s Castle Lane around mid-morning, suggesting to the search team that her remains could be nearby.

With a post mortem and technical examinations due to get under way, detectives will now turn to further examining Ms Valdez’s mobile phone and Hennessy’s phone and digital devices to see if they were known to each other or had been in contact with each other.

But sources said that, as it stands, they appeared not to know each other and that the student just happened to be walking along the road when Hennessy was passing in his wife’s jeep.

“Yes, they will check his laptops and phones to see if he had any contact with her,” said a Garda source, “and they have downloaded her phone and will examine that, but there is nothing at the moment [to suggest they knew each other].”

This will leave investigators with the scenario that Hennessy abducted a complete stranger from the roadside, in broad daylight, without any care of being noticed.

Gardaí have said a woman, who was with her teenage children, saw a female being bundled into the boot of a Nissan jeep at around 6.20pm on Saturday on the R760, south of Enniskerry village.

Another witness rang about an hour later saying he saw a woman in distress in a car fitting the same description.

The abduction location was just a few minutes from where Ms Valdez’s lived with her parents. Ms Valdez, a student at the Institute of Technology Tallaght, had got the bus from Enniskerry to Bray that morning.

As can be seen from the timeline graphic, Ms Valdez went about her business in Bray before getting the 5.40pm 185 bus back to Enniskerry.

Flowers on Puck’s Castle Lane in Rathmichael, Co Dublin, where a body was recovered. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire

Sometime after 6pm she got off the bus at the village and began walking towards her home in the direction of Powerscourt.

Gardai were able to establish from CCTV at Enniskerry, that the Nissan Qashqai being driven by Hennessy was seen passing through the village at 6pm. Some 15 minutes or so later he, for whatever reason, pulled in when he saw a woman walking down the R760.

Ms Valdez was of slim build and just 5ft in height. Gardaí believe there may have been some sort of tussle on the road as her mobile phone and a bag were discarded and Hennessy forced her into the boot.

Gardaí immediately dispatched patrol cars and the Air Support Unit on foot of the 999 call from the first witness.

Five hours later, Ms Valdez’s parents reported her missing.

At 6am on Sunday, the divisional search team located her phone near the abduction scene and, with the assistance of CCTV, pieced together the description of the car Hennessy was driving.

They identified the registered driver, who was Hennessy’s wife, and called to the house in Woodbrook, Bray. They were told he left in or around 5pm on Saturday, saying he was going socialising, and hadn’t been seen since.

There was no criminal record for Hennessy, bar a minor public order incident from decades ago. The building sub-contractor ran a business that appeared to be going well. He was married with two young children and initial reports did not reveal anything untoward.

Detectives will now speak to his family, friends, and work colleagues in a bid to establish possible motive.

The unimaginable in picturesque village     

Joyce Fegan    

Wisteria-covered shop fronts, fairy lights that stay up all year-round and a clock tower made of granite — Enniskerry, is Ireland’s picture-perfect village.

Pilgrims of the Wicklow Way regularly pass through on foot, come the weekend cyclists fill the square, and boutiques pepper the perimeter of this quaint village, where most people know your name.

Everyone in Enniskerry knew Jastine Valdez’s name. Originally from the Philippines and living here for just three years, the vibrant 24-year-old had endeared herself to locals as she walked in and out of the village for her bus to college.

Everyone you talk to said she was offered a lift as she walked the windy road from the bus stop to her home.

Gardaí on Puck’s Castle Lane in Rathmichael, Co Dublin. Investigating gardaí are now trying to piece together the last known moments of 24-year-old student Jastine Valdez after her body was discovered yesterday. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Wire

“It was well known she took that route.

“She would have been seen going from her house to the village for the bus for work or for college. There’s not even pavements on that road she walked and neighbours would give her a lift,” said a local woman with three young children.

A neighbour of Jastine’s said everyone who lived on the quite road outside the village would have worried about her walking there, because there were no footpaths.

People were used to passing Jastine on the street. She was always walking on that road. People were often quite concerned for her safety walking on the roads because there are no footpaths and they’re just so windy and dangerous those roads.

“Unfortunately something terrible has happened to her and it just makes it all the more real when it’s on your doorstep,” the neighbour said, “it’s devastating.”

Jastine was abducted quite close to the entrance to the famous Powerscourt Gardens, a destination popular with tourists. The road remained cordoned off last night as investigators try to ascertain the sequence of events that led to this unimaginable crime.

The local woman, with three children, said an “air of worry” now hangs over the village.

“Things like this never happen here. The fact that it’s right beside a school is ironic — there are kids playing in the school yard, right beside where it happened. It’s quite unnerving,” she said.

“I won’t let my 14-year-old walk up home from the village now. There are all these unanswered questions. The worry is people don’t know if it was random or not, or was she known to him. If it was targeted it wouldn’t be as worrying but if it’s random, it’s just beyond
belief,” added the local woman.

Investigating gardaí are now trying to piece her last moments together. From where Jastine was seen being bundled into a car at 6.15pm on Saturday evening to where her body was found yesterday afternoon, is only a short distance of around 7km.

While the village of Enniskerry went about its usual business yesterday, the
surrounding woodland and back roads were a hive of activity with army vans, investigators and Garda helicopters searching the area.

Where Jastine’s body was eventually located is off a network of remote laneways that connect Enniskerry, in Co Wicklow with Kilternan, in Co Dublin — but which no one would travel unless you lived on one of the laneways or were bringing your dog for a walk.

Save for the handful of houses along the series of lanes, you will only find markings of burned-out cars and dumped rubbish — such is the remoteness of the area.

The laneways are seldom used so grass grows in the middle of the road and briars and bushes brush off your car as you pass through them.

Locals now wait for answers to this unimaginable crime that has landed at the doorstep of their picturesque village.

“People always say where we live is so pretty it should be on a postcard but now it’s on the front of all these newspapers and we don’t even know why,” said the mother-of-three.


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