Marie Farrell not eliminated as important witness in du Plantier investigation after lying, court hears
GARDAI did not eliminate shopkeeper Marie Farrell as an important witness in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation after establishing she had lied to them, a retired senior officer has told the High Court.
Ted Murphy, a former Detective Chief Superintendent, said he knew by May 1997 Ms Farrell had lied about the identity of the male companion with her when they allegedly drove past another man walking on the road near Schull on the night of December 22/23, 1996, hours before Ms Toscan du Plantier's body was found.
He agreed he had in January 1998 told a District Court judge Ms Farrell was a "key witness" in the investigation and also agreed an official in the DPP's office had described Ms Farrell as not reliable.
Gardaí recognised Ms Farrell was in a compromised position on December 22/23 and regarded her as an important witness whose sighting of the man on the road might still be corroborated, he said.
He would not approve of, and was not aware of, Ms Farrell being assured her sighting would not have to be corroborated by her companion.
He was unaware of any conditions attached to Ms Farrell making a statement and would not approve of a corroborating witness being given an assumed name.
There was other evidence and other witnesses in the investigation apart from Ms Farrell, he added.
Mr Murphy was being cross-examined in the continuing action by Ian Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found near her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23, 1996.
The defendants deny all Mr Bailey's claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy.
Mr Murphy told Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, he was satisfied on April 30, 1997, a man named by Ms Farrell as her companion on the night of December 22/23, 1996 was "nowhere near" west Cork that night. He and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald met Ms Farrell on three occasions from May 1997 to discuss what she had said.
The concern was to get corroboration of her account of seeing a man on the road near Schull by interviewing her companion.
They told her they understood the position she was in as she had said she was compromised because she was out with another man and she had a violent husband.
He had decided, after three meetings with Ms Farrell, there was no point in pursuing the matter. He understood Ms Farrell had to date named three different men as her companion, two of whom were dead.
Asked had gardai re-evaluated Ms Farrell's evidence after learning she lied, he said they "left the door open" to see if she could resolve her problems.
Ms Farrell had come forward voluntarily on December 25, 1996, with information she believed would assist the investigation, he said. While she was less valuable than before due to having told lies, she was always an important witness and it was always possible she would give the true identity of her companion.
When counsel suggested Ms Farrell was "certainly eliminated now", Mr Murphy said counsel could "draw your own conclusions" from Ms Farrell's evidence during this case.
He was aware the DPP's office regarded Ms Farrell as unreliable but believed one aspect of what the DPP's office said should not be isolated.
He denied suggestions gardai had not properly looked into the various grounds given for arresting Mr Bailey. Gardai have to take the statements of witnesses as they are made, he said.
He agreed, when seeking a second arrest warrant for Mr Bailey in January 1998, he told the District Court new information grounding that application included that Mr Bailey had, in a newspaper article, disclosed specific knowledge concerning the deceased’s head injuries which gardai believed was known only to a very small number of people.
When counsel suggested no articles by Mr Bailey were published after his first arrest in February 1997, Mr Murphy denied he had lied and said he was satisfied he got that information at the time from an article retained in the incident room.
He said he was not put under pressure from Assistant Commissioner Martin McQuinn to get Mr Bailey "locked up".
The case continues.