Body found in garda hunt believed to be that of Jastine Valdez

No obvious signs of injuries on body of 24-year-old who may have been strangled

Gardaí searching for missing student Jastine Valdez found a woman’s body on Monday.

The remains were discovered just before lunchtime in an old mine in Kilternan, south Co Dublin.

While the remains have not been formally identified garda sources believe they are those of the missing 24-year-old.

There were no obvious signs of injuries on her body, though she was clothed and her clothes may have concealed injuries.


The young woman was murdered, probably by strangulation, on Saturday evening very shortly after being abducted from a Co Wicklow roadside, gardaí believe.

In a statement this afternoon the Garda Press Office said: “Gardaí investigating the disappearance of 24-year-old Jastine Valdez have discovered the body of a female in the Puck’s Castle area. The body has not been formally identified. Gardaí wish to appeal for privacy for the Valdez family at this time.”

The force thanked members of the public, the Defence Forces and Civil Defence and the media for their assistance in this investigation.

The area where the body was found is close to the disused Ballycorus lead mine chimney, a landmark in the Rathmichael/Kilternan area. It was discovered amid thick gorse bushes off Puck's Castle Lane, about 200m south of the car park for Rathmichael Woods.

Gardaí searching for Ms Valdez had narrowed their search on Monday to a piece of land in the Rathmichael area of south Dublin, close to where the body was found.

Shortly before lunchtime Ms Valdez’s purse was found at the disused Puck’s Castle Golf Course golf club in south Co Dublin.

That area was being searched by a large team of gardaí, troops and Civil Defence personnel.

In their latest appeal for information on Ms Valdez, released on Monday evening, investigators have asked for anyone who may have observed suspicious activity around Puck's Castle Lane, Murphy's Lane, the Carrickgollogan forest recreation area or the lead mines between 6pm on Saturday and 8pm Sunday to contact them, particularly if they spotted a black Nissan Qashqai with the registration 171 D 20419.

They are also seeking assistance from hillwalkers or cyclists in the area or anyone who may have driven through these locations during that period and may be in possession of a dashcam to contact Bray Garda station on 01-6665300, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666111 or any Garda station.

Gardaí earlier drafted in the Army and Civil Defence for a land search for Ms Valdez. The Garda Water Unit was also involved in the search.

Note found in vehicle

Gardaí believe Ms Valdez, who had been studying and working part-time in Ireland for about three years, was abducted by construction worker Mark Hennessy.

The 40-year-old married father-of-two who lived in Bray was shot dead by a garda at the Cherrywood Industrial Estate on Sunday evening. He had been spotted in the black Nissan Qashqai in the area and gardaí were alerted.

A note found in the vehicle is being examined by gardaí.

Hennessy was due before the courts next month to face drink-driving charges, it emerged on Monday.

He was charged with driving while drunk, crashing into other vehicles and leaving the scene. He had been granted bail by the courts in relation to those charges.

When he was a younger man, Hennessy was convicted of abusive behaviour while intoxicated in a public place. He also has a conviction for possession of cannabis in Dublin city centre. Both convictions date back to the late 1990s.

While the circumstances of Sunday's shooting are now being investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, early indications are that Hennessy had a knife.

The Irish Times understands gardaí used technical information from electronic devices in the black Nissan Qashqai Hennessy was driving to help pinpoint where he was during a crucial 26-hour period he was unaccounted for over the weekend.

And having established where the vehicle was between Saturday evening and last night, an area in Rathmichael, south Co Dublin, was selected as the main search site.

A video has emerged online of Hennessy purchasing a black 171 Nissan Qashqai from Windsor Motors in Bray in September 2017, the car believed to have been used in the abduction of Ms Valdez.

In the video, a car salesman says Hennessy had been due to pick up the vehicle a week earlier but his partner went into labour. Hennessy said he was “delighted with my buy” and that it “drives really well”.

On Sunday gardaí urged people to report any sightings of the vehicle but not to approach it.

Sexual motives

The search on Monday had also focused on a number of other sites in south Co Dublin, including the Scalp, Killiney beach and Killiney Hill. The car park at Killiney Hill had been closed by gardaí.

Ms Valdez's phone was found by the side of the road – the R760 near Enniskerry – during a search for her at first light on Sunday after her parents reported her missing on Saturday night.

Gardaí believe the place where the phone was found was where she was abducted by Hennessy just after 6pm on Saturday.

Gardaí believe Hennessy, who was from Ballybrack in south Co Dublin but living in Bray, Co Wicklow, did not know Ms Valdez.

They are operating on the belief he saw her walking along the road near Enniskerry on Saturday evening and stopped his car to bundle her into it.

The Garda inquiry is working on the basis that his motives were sexual.

If a sexual motive for the crime is confirmed, the Garda will examine Hennessy in the context of other unsolved crimes in south Dublin and Co Wicklow.

Gardaí were alerted to Ms Valdez’s disappearance by a call from a female motorist on Saturday evening who said she believed she had just seen a man forcing a woman into an SUV –believed to be the Qashqai – near Enniskerry.

A second witness reported seeing a woman travelling as a passenger in a Qashqai close to Enniskerry, adding that she looked in distress.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times