Saturday 3 December 2016

French magistrate hopes to finish Sophie Toscan du Plantier probe 'within weeks'

Ralph Riegel and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 05/10/2015 | 10:28

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey

A FRENCH magistrate hopes to conclude a seven-year investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) within weeks with a Paris court to decide early next year about a prosecution over her killing.

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The revelation came after an elite team of French detectives travelled to Ireland to conduct final interviews for Magistrate Patrick Gachon.

Around 15 interviews were expected to be conducted in Dublin and west Cork for the French-based probe into the brutal 1996 killing.

The team arrived in Ireland after the Government sanctioned the visit which had been delayed for two years because of Ian Bailey’s High Court civil action against the State.

Mr Bailey (58), who has consistently protested his innocence in  relation to the matter, claimed he was wrongfully arrested by Gardai as part of their 19 year probe into the murder of Mrs du Plantier.

Following protests from the legal team representing the Manchester-born freelance journalist, the Department of Justice suspended all co-operation in 2013 with the French authorities over  their probe.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier who was murdered near her home in Schull in 1996
Sophie Toscan du Plantier who was murdered near her home in Schull in 1996

The suspension was lifted last summer after the High Court rejected Mr Bailey’s wrongful arrest claim after a marathon trial.

He is currently appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Papers in respect of his appeal have been lodged.

Magistrate Gachon who has been leading a seven year French probe into Sophie’s murder on December 23 1996.

The mother of one was found battered to death on a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork two days before Christmas.

No-one has ever been charged with her brutal killing.

Magistrate Gachon required the permission of the Irish authorities to allow his team to conduct a final round of interviews in Dublin and

west Cork. His detectives conducted a seven hour interview with Mr Bailey’s partner, Welsh artist Jules Thomas, in 2011.

Two of Ms Thomas’s daughters also agreed to help the French detectives. However, the French investigation has been frustrated by the fact a significant number of the original witnesses in the garda case file have now died.

Sophie’s son, Pierre-Louis Bauday (34), has vowed he will never rest until a prosecution takes place over his mother’s death.

Mr Bailey has repeatedly predicted that the French will attempt to try him in absentia.

He successfully fought a French attempt to have him extradited with the Supreme Court unanimously throwing out the European Arrest Warrant  application three years ago.

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