French judge to begin du Plantier interviews
Published 07/02/2010 | 05:00
THE French magistrate investigating the brutal 1996 killing in west Cork of mother-of-one Sophie Toscan du Plantier, 39, is to begin interviewing civilian witnesses within weeks.
It is now expected that up to 30 witnesses -- both Irish and foreign nationals resident in west Cork -- will be asked to voluntarily travel to Paris for the interviews.
The magistrate leading the French probe -- Patrick Gachon -- last year interviewed senior gardai in connection with the murder probe conducted by the Irish authorities.
Despite one of the biggest murder investigations in garda history, no one was ever formally charged with the slaying of the French woman, on December 23, 1996.
Sophie's battered body was discovered on the laneway by her isolated holiday home at Toormore, outside Schull in west Cork.
Sophie had apparently tried to flee from an intruder at her home -- but she was caught just 50 metres away and bludgeoned to death on the laneway.
It is suspected her attacker caught up with her when her jumper caught on a barbed wire fence.
Her family and friends launched the Sophie Toscan du Plantier Truth Association (STDPTA) three years ago following the failure of the Irish authorities to bring anyone to justice.
The French authorities launched their own probe into the killing two years ago under Mr Gachon, a senior Paris-based magistrate.
One of Mr Gachon's first acts was to order the exhumation of Sophie's body for a new post-mortem in 2008.
Mr Gachon and his assistant, Magistrate Nathalie Duartre, were granted access to the full garda case file.
Having considered that material for four months, the Paris team is now ready to proceed to the next phase of their investigation, which will be interviewing up to 30 civilian Irish witnesses.
It is understood that the witness list will mirror those who gave evidence at a high-profile Cork Circuit Civil Court libel case taken in 2003.