State knew of Sophie du Plantier tapes 10 years ago
Published 01/04/2014 | 02:30
THE State has known for at least a decade about the existence of taped phone calls relating to the investigation into the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Garda statements forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the early 2000s outlined how calls to and from the investigation headquarters involving one witness were recorded. They detail how detectives sought technical assistance, so that calls involving former soldier Martin Graham were taped.
Mr Graham would later make explosive claims that two gardai bribed him with cash and cannabis in a bid to get a confession from Ian Bailey, a former suspect in the killing.
This is denied in statements made by the two gardai and forwarded to the DPP.
Mr Bailey himself broke his silence and made his first public comments since the fresh controversy of the garda tapes broke.
He said his life had been "hell" for the first 10 years after the 1996 murder. "The last five years have been difficult enough but the first 10 years were particularly appalling," he told TV3.
He acknowledged that there was a very small minority of gardai who he believed had acted improperly, but he felt he had nowhere to turn.
"Members of An Garda Siochana went around the community telling people... absolutely no question that I was somehow responsible for the murder of this lady.
"That put fear into a lot of people's hearts, a lot of people chose to believe that," he said.
Statements previously sent to the DPP here do not indicate that phone calls into and out of the garda station in Bandon, Co Cork, were recorded as a matter of routine.
However, a specific decision was taken to record calls involving Mr Graham – and it is clear that members of the investigation team knew they were being taped during such calls.
One garda involved admitted that conversations were peppered with references to Mr Graham being given "stuff".
But the garda insisted this was not a euphemism for drugs and what was actually being referring to was clothing.
At least eight phone calls involving Mr Graham in 1997 were uncovered when gardai searched archives following an application for discovery by lawyers for Mr Bailey, who is suing the State for alleged wrongful arrest.
His solicitor Frank Buttimer said: "It is in the interests of everyone that this case gets on as soon as possible.
"Mr Bailey is a prisoner in Ireland. He is subject to a French investigation that is only based on the Irish investigation."
The uncovering of the recordings, and at least three others involving another witness, Marie Farrell, prompted the crisis that led to the resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last week.
The office of the DPP refused to say last night whether it told outside bodies, such as the Attorney General or Department of Justice, about the recordings when informed of them in the early 2000s.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said the AG's office only learned of the existence of the tapes last November, while his department only became aware of them in February and he was not told about them until last week.
The Irish Independent has learned that as well as recording calls from Mr Graham, officers got technical assistance to secretly record face-to-face conversations with him.
In a number of statements, a garda said Mr Graham offered his services to help get a confession from Mr Bailey and denied he had been induced to do this in return for drugs.
British-born Mr Graham came to Ireland looking for work in 1996. In February 1997 Mr Bailey was questioned by gardai, and went to stay in a house in Skibbereen for a few days afterwards.
Mr Graham was living there at the time and, according to gardai, was interviewed about his interactions with Mr Bailey.
A statement by one officer involved said Mr Graham offered to help gardai. He agreed to get close to Mr Bailey.
In a statement, one of these gardai said Mr Graham asked if he could be paid IR£4,000 for his statement if Mr Bailey admitted the murder to him.
The garda said he and his colleague discussed this request with a detective inspector, who said that in no way could it be entertained.
According to the statement, several phone calls took place after May 13 that year. A formal process for recording these calls, as well as face-to-face conversations, was effected on May 20.
Mr Graham would later admit to Mr Bailey he was working with the gardai.
He outlined in a conversation openly recorded by Mr Bailey, that he had received up to IR£600 "in payoffs" and 15-18oz of hash from gardai.
Mr Graham also claimed he had been offered sums of up to £5,000 if he could make a statement saying Mr Bailey had murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier.
However, the garda in his statement denied that there had been any "payoffs" and said only "small monetary expenses" had been paid and no drugs were given to him.
He said clothing such as trousers, socks and shirts had been bought for Mr Graham and a receipt for these items was "on record".