Saturday 22 July 2017

French study Bailey diary, notebooks in Sophie case

Police pursue investigation as suspect fights extradition bid

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE French authorities will start reviewing evidence gathered in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation in the coming weeks.

Police forensic teams will examine evidence and exhibits gathered by gardai during their investigation into the film producer's murder at her west Cork holiday home 14 years ago. The exhibits include copies of diaries and notebooks kept by Ian Bailey, the 53-year-old former journalist who was twice arrested and released without charge in connection with her death, and samples of hair and nail scrapings taken from the dead woman's body.

The French authorities will pursue their inquiries regardless of the outcome of extradition proceedings against Mr Bailey, according to Alain Spilliaert, a lawyer close to Ms Toscan Du Plantier's family. Mr Bailey, who moved from the UK to Schull, Co Cork, in 1991, has always denied involvement in her death and is suing the State for wrongful arrest.

However, a French magistrate is seeking his extradition with a view to prosecuting him for the crime. The High Court was expected to rule on his extradition on Friday but the case was adjourned to the High Court until February 10.

Mr Spilliaert, who also advises a campaign group set up on Ms Toscan du Plantier's behalf, said he understands there is "full co-operation between Irish and French investigators", regardless of the outcome of the extradition proceedings.

A French magistrate began an investigation into Ms Toscan du Plantier's death under a law that allows the authorities to investigate the death of a French national abroad. The gardai released their file on Ms Toscan du Plantier's death to the French in 2008. On foot of that, the magistrate issued a European arrest warrant for Mr Bailey last year and the case for his extradition was argued in the High Court last month.

Former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern also granted permission last year to French magistrate Patrick Gachon to send a team of investigators to Ireland.

The body of Ms Toscan du Plantier, 39, was discovered near her holiday home outside Schull on December 23, 1993. She had been beaten to death. Mr Bailey, who lived nearby with his artist partner Jules Thomas, emerged as a suspect within days.

He was then a freelance journalist and one of the first reporters on the scene of the crime. Mr Bailey later sued several newspapers claiming they had branded him a murderer. He lost the case in 2003 but he appealed to the High Court. He later dropped the libel action in 2007 after newspapers agreed to contribute to his costs.

Details from his diaries, and of his relationship with Ms Thomas, emerged during libel action. One entry from July 1993 noted: "I am full of aggression, anger. I am a strange, lonely, aggressive man much of the time."

On August 21, 1993, he assaulted Ms Thomas while visiting friends in Cork. On the day after the incident, Mr Bailey noted in his diary: "I actually tried to kill her."

In another entry -- days after a second assault on Ms Thomas -- he wrote: "In one act of whiskey-induced madness and . . . cracked in an act of such awful violence I so severely damaged you and made you feel that death was near." Peter Bielecki, a neighbour, who took Ms Thomas to hospital, described how she was curled up at the foot of bed, making terrible animal-like noises; her eye was bruised and bleeding and she had teeth marks on her arm.

The libel action also heard from a neighbour who was "90 per cent" sure he had introduced Mr Bailey to the Ms Toscan du Plantier, while Mr Bailey claimed he had never met her. Neighbours, Richie and Rosie Shelley said that he appeared to break down in front of them, sobbing: "I did it, I did it, I went too far." Bailey insisted that he was imitating a mantra drilled into him during police interrogations: "You did it, you did it, you went too far."

Mr Bailey's lawyers are fighting his extradition, claiming a decision had been made not to charge him (in Ireland), there was no new evidence against him and the case had already been exhaustively reviewed in this country. His lawyers also argued that an individual cannot be extradited to another country to be investigated in connection with a crime, but only to be prosecuted.

However, at Friday's High Court hearing, Mr Justice Michael Peart drew attention to a Supreme Court ruling relating to a Swedish national, Thomas Olsen.

Mr Olsen was wanted for assault and armed robbery in his native country. The Supreme Court allowed his extradition, saying that the intention was to prosecute even if after further investigation the Swedish authorities decided not to do so.

Sunday Independent

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