‘Jastine, I am sorry that our country let you down’

There were few tears, just stunned silence, as student Jastine Valdez, 24, lay in repose.

In an open casket and dressed in a white blazer and dusky pink scarf, Jastine lay in repose in Bray, Co Wicklow yesterday afternoon, where members of the public was invited to express their condolences.

On a blistering hot day, the Irish Filipino community travelled from far and wide to pay their respects to the young student who was abducted and murdered this day last week.

Several books of condolence greeted those paying their respects, with addresses from all around the country.

There was no music, just vases of lilies and bunches of flowers left around her coffin, as candles lit the passageway towards her remains.

There was no sniffling, no sobbing, just silence, as up to 40 people at a time sat in the funeral home alongside Jastine’s remains.

A single photo of her was placed next to her coffin. It was of her dressed in yellow, her face beaming with a smile.

While her casket was open, a net veil gently covered her face and body as people approached her coffin to bear witness to a life cut devastatingly short.

Many members of the Filipino community that visited the funeral home had never met before, nor did they know her family.

“She was one of our own, we must be here,” said one woman, who has been working in Ireland as a nurse for almost 20 years.

Her friend, who also wished not to be named, said she was “devastated” for Jastine’s parents, who had come to Ireland “to prepare a good life for their daughter”.

The funeral home, on a long and busy road — the Boghall — sits directly across from Woodbrook Lawn, where Jastine’s killer Mark Hennessy had lived.

Groups of Filipino people walked the length of the road, some carrying white roses and others boxes of cakes for Jastine’s family, who arrived at 6pm for a private service.

Up until yesterday her parents, Teresita and Danilo Valdez, had not made any public comment. However, yesterday afternoon, they did release a statement about their “beautiful daughter”, through the Consulate of the Republic of the Philippines.

They described her hopes of a new life and said that their only child was full of fun and love.

“Our daughter’s plans were to settle in Ireland, buy a house here and make a new life,” the statement read.

“She is a fun-loving, wonderful, caring daughter and friend. She is always in our hearts and in the hearts of the people of Ireland.” Her parents thanked the emergency services, gardaí, and especially the family liaison officer.

They also acknowledged the support of the Filipino community and Mark Congdon, Consul for the Philippines, during this “traumatic time”.

Almost €130,000 has been raised for the Valdez family through a public GoFundMe page.

“I am so sorry that our country let you down in your fresh start for you and your beautiful daughter. Wishing you strength and lots of kindness to help get you through this terrible time,” read a comment from one of the donors to the page.

“Nothing can take your horrendous pain away. No words can express my sorrow on your behalf. My wish is that these offerings reduce any extra burden for you to carry. My heart is with you,” read another comment.

Almost every comment apologised to the Valdez family that such a crime had happened in Ireland.

Jastine will lie in repose again today, with the public invited to pay their respects until 6pm. It is understood that she will be repatriated in the coming weeks to the Philippines, where she will finally be laid to rest.

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