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Inquest told how Mark Hennessy 'looked as if everything was over' before garda shot him

The 40-year-old was shot after he abducted and killed Jastine Valdez in May 2018.

Mark Hennessy
Mark Hennessy
Image: Facebook/RollingNews.ie

MARK HENNESSY TOOK took his hands from the steering wheel and shrugged his shoulders before he was shot by a garda, an inquest into his death heard today.

The 40-year-old abducted and killed Jastine Valdez, a 24-year-old Filipino student, from Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, in May 2018.

Hennessy used a knife to inflict injuries to his wrist and neck moments before he was shot just after 8pm on 20 May 2018 at Cherrywood Business Park in Co Dublin, the inquest heard.

A uniformed garda in an unmarked car, Garda C, told Dublin Coroner’s Court he kicked the car in a bid to gain access as he witnessed Hennessy insert a Stanley knife into his forearm.

The manoeuvre, described in court as an “impressive karate kick” failed to break the driver’s window and just 3.3 seconds later, the fatal shot was fired.

The shot was discharged by Garda A, the most senior of the three gardaí at the scene.

Hennessy slumped over the passenger seat, the inquest heard. He was removed from the car and placed on the ground as gardaí searched the vehicle for the missing student. The only item found was a bottle of Jack Daniels, the inquest was told.

The two unmarked garda cars involved were conducting searches of car parks and lay-bys within a five mile radius of Bray in the search for Valdez, who had been abducted 24 hours earlier.

They were directed into the car park, to Hennessy’s vehicle, by Christine Connolly, who recognised the registration after reading a news item and called 999.

Hennessy was behind the wheel as gardaí approached, his window was down, he was moving slowly, the inquest heard. 

“I shouted ‘stop the car’, he didn’t respond,” Garda C said.

“My sole intention was to get him out of the car, with no access to be able to drive it away from us.

“My first attempt was to open the door, which was locked. Immediately on trying the door and looking in, I saw him hold up the Stanley knife. He was looking straight at me and the knife went into the forearm,” Garda C said.

“My instinct was to put the boot to the vehicle, he was self-harming right in front of me, and it was purely instinctual to kick the window.

“I became aware of Garda A to my right. He was trying the door, it was locked. Then I became aware of the firearm in my peripheral vision,” Garda C said.

“I heard a crack from the firearm and could see a hole in the window and Mr Hennessy slumping over in the vehicle.”

Garda C took the key fob from the ignition and used it to unlock the car.

He put out a radio message, seeking urgent assistance noting that shots had been fired by gardaí.

Garda C was the observer in a vehicle driven by his colleague, Garda B. Garda A was the sole occupant of the second unmarked car at the scene.

‘Smash the window’ 

Three members of the Civil Defence watched the events from their truck, the inquest heard. They had blocked off the entrance to the car park after Hennessy drove in. They moved their vehicle to the front of Hennessy’s Nissan Qashqai.

All three had received a text at 5.05pm requesting assistance in the search for Jastine Valdez. One volunteer said he had an unobstructed view of events.

1jastine_90584004 Jastine Valdez Source: Garda Press Office

“[Mark Hennessy] took his hands off the wheel and made a shrug motion. Possibly at us, possibly at gardaí,” he said.

Witness Andrew Rogers told the inquest: “I recall the gardaí were trying to open the door, they were shouting ‘open the door’ and another voice said ‘smash the window’. I saw a garda raise a karate kick at the driver’s window but it did not break. The driver looked as if he knew everything was over for him.”

“He took a blade, about 10cm, and cut from his left wrist to elbow in one single slicing motion.”

Witness James Magee, one of the volunteers, said he saw one of the gardaí approach the driver’s side door.

“He was about a yard or two away when he was taking the gun out of his holster.”

The volunteer said he saw the garda raise a revolver to shoulder height and fire through the window.

He said the time between the arrival of gardaí at the scene and the discharge of the firearm was four to five minutes.

Hennessy was pronounced dead at the scene at 8.38pm.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Frank Heneghan said he took the decision to issue the registration of the Nissan Qashqai at a press conference three hours earlier at 5.30pm.

It was this information, published in the media, which lead Connolly to recognise the registration of the vehicle, follow Hennessy and alert emergency services to his location.

“Every available car, jeep, whatever we had we deployed in the hope of recovering Jastine,” Detective Superintendent Keenaghan said.

The inquest will hear further evidence tomorrow.

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Louise Roseingrave

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