“We miss her so much it is hard to bear. We will never know why this happened. We will never understand how such evil can exist in the world. Our grief will never pass, the loss of our beautiful Jastine will never fade, we will never have peace.”
-Danilo and Teresita Valdez
It was the 19th of May 2018. Jastine Valdez was on her way home to Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, Ireland. She lived with her parents Teresita and Danilo Valdez. Her parents moved to Ireland from the Philippines and it was their mission to build a life in Ireland so that Jastine could one day move there too to live with them. They wanted to provide a great life for their daughter. She meant everything to them, they loved her very much and she was their world. They achieved their goal.Jastine moved to Ireland in 2015 and began studying accountancy. She also worked part time as a care assistant and in a restaurant in Bray.
Jastine, Teresita and Danilo
Jastine was always in constant contact with her parents and that day had been no different. She had exchanged some 63 messages with Teresita throughout the day. The last contact was 4.20pm and Teresita asked Jastine to buy some bread on her way home. Jastine went to the gym after her appointment at the police station. She had been in Bray that day as she had an appointment to seek to renew her residency permit at the police station. Before getting the bus home at 5.40pm, she bought bread and then got on the 185 number bus in Bray. It was after 6pm when the bus arrived in Enniskerry village. Jasmine got off the bus and began to make her way home. The walk home from the bus stop normally took 15-20 minutes. That day, Jastine never made it home.
Jastine, Teresita and Danilo
Due to Jastine's frequent contact with her mother that day, her mother was instantly worried when Jastine didn't arrive home. Teresita knew her daughter very well. If Jastine's plans had changed, she would have told Teresita immediately. People saw Jastine on the bus and getting off the bus. At just 5ft tall, the 24 year old had striking looks. She was slim with long dark hair and big beautiful brown eyes. That day, she was wearing her gym clothes - grey leggings, white t-shirt, trainers and a dark jacket. So where exactly was Jastine and what happened after her getting off the bus in the village and the walk home?
At 6.24 pm, just a few minutes after Jastine got off the bus, police received a call. A female motorist was driving with her son when she saw a man in a Nissan car bundling a girl into the boot of his car. The girl was Asian with dark hair. The driver saw the car stopped on the road with no lights and no blinkers on and she drove around the car to overtake it. As she did, she saw a girl looking out at her from the boot of the car and heard shouting and then screaming. The driver pulled over and she called police immediately.
Around ten minutes later, a male motorist saw a woman in the back of a car banging on the windows. At the time, he thought she was a child. Something did not feel right about the situation and after the man discussed it with his wife when he got home, he reported the incident to police. His report was made at 7.20pm.
Police went to the road where the first motorist had seen a man bundling a girl into his car. They found Jastine's smashed phone and a bag with bread inside it.
Police believed Jastine was in grave danger. Helicopters and patrol cars were dispatched in a bid to find her. By Saturday night, as it became dark, there was still no sign of Jastine. However, police got a break at 3am the following morning. They identified the man driving that Nissan car. Mark Hennessy.
Police went to Mark's home as it was the address that the car was registered to. Mark was a married father. The 40 year old had two young daughters with his wife Nicola and seemed like a typical married family man. He worked as a banksman on building sites. His youngest daughter had just been born the previous September. Police spoke with Nicola. She told police that she saw Mark on the Saturday afternoon. He went to work at around 7.30 am. He returned home just after 3pm that afternoon and left again around 5.25pm that evening. He told her he was going for a drink but she had not seen him since then. She had no idea where Mark was.
Police went to the pub and it was confirmed that Mark had been there on the Saturday but he initially just stayed for around ten minutes and watched some football. CCTV showed him leaving the pub at 5.41pm and walking out to the car park where his car was parked. He appeared to be on the phone at the time and left in his car two minutes later. Half an hour after that, he was driving behind the 185 bus that Jastine was on. CCTV footage from the bus confirmed this. At 11pm that night, he returned to the pub. He spoke with a couple at the door of the pub who knew his family and then he left. So what did Mark do between 5.41pm and 11pm and then after 11pm? And more importantly, where was Jastine?
When police identified Mark as the suspect in Jastine's abduction at 3am, his family and friends helped search for him. Police also held a press conference to ask the public to report any sightings of Mark or the Nissan car. On the Sunday night, around 8pm, a woman who had just watched the press conference saw the car that police were searching for and followed it to Cherrywood Business Park. She notified police and they quickly arrived. Police found Mark sitting in the driver's seat of his car. He was covered in blood. The blood was his own. He had cut himself with a Stanley knife. In a standoff with police, police fired at him and a bullet ricocheted off his shoulder and killed him.
Jastine was not in the car. A blood stained note was found in the car. It was difficult to make out but police saw the words "sorry" and "puck's castle." This led police to search the area. The next day, the 21st of May, Jastine's body was found in dense woodland in South Dublin. She was declared dead at the scene.
The official cause of death was asphyxia due to manual strangulation. It was believed that Jastine was killed on the Saturday night. There was evidence of bruising and abrasion to the genitals and a toxicology report found evidence of a small amount of cocaine ingested within a couple of hours of death. The cocaine was found in very low levels and it could not be determined how it had gotten into her system.
No connection was found between Mark and Jastine. Of course, he may have seen her working in the restaurant where she worked part time or walking down that road when she got off the bus before but there had been no contact between them and it appeared to be a completely random abduction and subsequent murder. So what exactly had led a married father of two little girls to brutally end the life of a hard working young woman who was devoted to her parents? It appeared that Mark had a darker side than the one most people knew. It was alleged that he consumed a lot of cocaine which may explain why trace cocaine was found in Jastine's system. His marriage was ending and he was in debt so his life was spiralling out of control. He had started trying to pick up women in pubs and even joined dating apps. But for whatever reason, that day, the 19th of May, Mark made a decision to take Jastine as she innocently walked home carrying the bread she had just bought for her mother. This all happened on a street where cars were driving by and in daylight.
Jastine's parents will never be able to move on from the horrific evil that entered all of their lives that day:
"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."
Jastine was deeply loved by them and her wider family in the Philippines. We will never have the full details of what happened that day as Mark is dead but we do know that Jastine, a woman who spent her time caring for others, was brutally murdered by a man she did not even know.