Filipinos were shocked by the brutal murder of popular actress Nida Blanca, 65, whose body was found with 13 stab wounds in the back of her car, on the sixth floor of a parking lot in a residential-commercial building in Greenhills, suburban San Juan yesterday morning.

Thousands of fans flocked to the White Plains chapel, near her house in elite suburban Quezon City, at the start of the wake.

Fans, members of the movie industry and all Filipinos nationwide could not believe that the actress, whose career spanned four decades, would suffer such a gory death.

"She received two fatal stab wounds in the neck which reached her larynx, and another which cut her jugular vein," said Police investigator, Nestor Gualberto, adding these wounds caused her death, approximately at 3 am yesterday. She also sustained wounds to the back and the abdomen.

More than one assailant is thought to have been involved because her wounds have different shapes and sizes, said Gualberto, adding the actress also sustained hematoma in both eyes and had broken ribs in both sides of her body, a sign that she was bludgeoned, and struggled before she was killed.

She had left her office at the Movie Television and Review Classification Board at 5 pm on Tuesday, following a four-hour meeting and a film review. The MTRCB office is located on the 33rd floor of the Atlanta Condominium.

"She must have been attacked after that, and she died 10 hours later," said Gualberto, hinting that the actress might have survived had someone seen her in her car before midnight.

Her husband, Rod Stunt, started looking for her at eight in the evening. The security men at the building where her car was parked said they started looking for her only when they discovered that she failed to claim her parking ticket.

There were no fingerprints in her grey Nissan Sentra despite the resistance she mustered against her attackers, said Gualberto.

Sources said the attackers must have killed her in another place and then dumped the body in the car. She reportedly lost her fingernails, a sign of torture, but authorities refused to confirm this report.

"I don't know how I can go on," said Stunt, her husband for 20 years. This year, they were featured as a happy, wholesome family in an advertisement for Sustagen, a health drink.

"She has made us laugh, she has made us cry. She was on our television for four decades. Now she's gone," said Stunt, adding: "It was a wasteful and senseless killing."

Actress Anabelle Rama said: "Those who killed her should be in hell."

"I can't understand why this was done to her," said colleague Rosa Rosal.

"She's such a kind person. I could not think of anybody who would kill her," said singer Geline Eugenio.

"She was kind, soft-spoken," said MTRCB head, Alfredo Roces.

Dorothy Jones in real life, Blanca began acting at the age of 15 in the 50s. In the 60s, she blossomed into a comedian in a film entitled 'Flirt'. With her partner, then matinee idol Nestor de Villa, she became known as a dancing queen. She was a national treasure of the film industry at a young age.

In her later years, she became a dramatic actress and was acclaimed for her acting in 'Miguelito', directed by the famous Lino Brocka; 'Don't Give Up,' under the directorship of Peque Gallaga; and 'Suffer', directed by Eddie Garcia.

She was also known as 'Marsha', the wife of Filipino comedian Dolphy in a TV show entitled 'John and Marsha', the longest running TV sitcom. She made 163 films, received 49 trophies, 19 of them for good acting.

She also led a colourful life.

She was linked to the late actor, Leroy Salvador, the late senator Benigno Aquino, and former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who is serving a life sentence for statutory rape. She has a 30-year old daughter, Kate, by first husband, Vic Torres.

Lately, she has been fighting for classification instead of censorship, saying that freedom of expression is important in the growth of the film industry in a largely Catholic country like the Philippines.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez called for the cooperation of other agencies in solving the case. Police Chief Leandro Mendoza created 'Task Force Marsha' (after the TV personality she has portrayed) for the investigation of the case.

San Juan Mayor J.V. Ejercito offered $ 588 to anyone who could give a clue on the identity of her killers. Investigators ruled out robbery, adding she must have been the victim of "some enemies in the industry".