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Saturday 23 August 2014

Sophie's son pleads for us to act together on killing

Ralph Riegel

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

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Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH: Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud

THE son of murdered French film executive Sophie Toscan du Plantier has pleaded with the Irish authorities to resume co-operation with a Paris-based investigation into his mother's killing.

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In an exclusive Sunday Independent interview, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, 33, said he will not be distracted by recent controversies in Ireland over the case including secret recording of calls at garda stations.

"I am not dismayed by what is going on in Ireland, revelations or court proceedings because I consider these developments as pure Irish internal controversies," he said. "I think that if the Irish file is not perfect, it is not totally wrong and can't be scrapped because of its imperfections.

"I am not bothered by the content of these revelations but only by the delay that they could possibly cause to the search for truth," he said.

It is Baudey-Vignaud's first interview since the taping scandal erupted earlier this year.

Sophie's only child warned that the killer, who has never been found and still walks free, will only be held to account if the Irish and French authorities continue to work together.

His appeal came as Paris-based magistrate Patrick Gachon awaits permission from the Government to allow an elite team of French detectives travel to west Cork to conclude interviews for his six-year probe into the Sophie's murder.

Their proposed visit has been overshadowed by the controversial revelation that 133 secret recordings were made of calls to Bandon Garda station since 1997 in relation to the murder investigation. These included calls between gardai, calls between gardai and journalists and, most crucially, calls between gardai and key case witnesses.

The revelation came as part of legal action being taken against Ireland by British-born freelance journalist, Ian Bailey, 56. Bailey was twice arrested in connection with the Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation but was released without charge on both occasions. He claimed that efforts were made to frame him for the crime and is now suing the State for wrongful arrest.

Two years ago, he successfully fought a French extradition attempt in the Supreme Court.

But Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, who was just 15 when his mother was murdered on December 23, 1996, warned that co-operation and not controversy should now be the priority in Ireland.

"There could be no reasons for the two judiciaries to stop cooperation in searching for the truth and bring the murderer of my mother to (justice)," he said.

"It is always better to join efforts to reach the unique and imperative common target, the truth about the murder of my mother 18 years ago in Ireland."

Sophie's body was found at the bottom of a laneway leading to the isolated cottage she called her "dream home" near Toormore, Schull in west Cork. She had been beaten to death with a rock.

The 39-year-old French film producer had been due to fly back to Paris later that day (December 23) to spend Christmas with husband, Daniel du Plantier, and family. Sophie had apparently tried to flee from an intruder but was caught and brutally killed when her clothing tragically snagged on barbed wire by the roadside.

The spot where her body was found is now marked by a simple Celtic cross inscribed with the word 'Sophie'.

Baudey-Vignaud still cherishes the memories of his mother. His first child, a baby girl born two years ago, was named Sophie in honour of her grandmother.

He also has photographs of summer holidays spent as a teen with his mother at her west Cork holiday cottage in the Nineties.

He now regularly holidays in west Cork with his own family and friends.

"I believe that there are still people in Ireland who have something to tell about the murder and who could still speak to help the Garda and the French inquiry judge to find the truth in Ireland," he said.

He said it was important to understand that Magistrate Gachon will conclude his probe and will make a recommendation to the French authorities about possible judicial proceedings in Paris.

The Gachon probe has been exhaustive and included re-interviewing all the witnesses in the Garda murder file, exhuming Sophie's body for a battery of new forensic tests and even examining new material and leads.

When concluded, the Gachon report will make recommendations which will be ruled on by a Paris-based Court d'Accusations.

The du Plantier and Bouniol families said they are confident the report will recommend a French-based prosecution.

Ian Bailey and his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, have consistently predicted that the French will seek a trial in absentia. Frank Buttimer has argued that Ireland must immediately suspend all co-operation with the French given the domestic judicial issues now involved.

However, Baudey-Vignaud told the Sunday Independent: "Nobody can deny the French judge the right to seek testimonies in Ireland into his investigation. And I believe that it's what is going to happen because our Irish friends have the same humanity as ourselves. They cannot stand injustice and the ongoing scandal of being unable to find the murderer after so (much) time spent on the investigation."

Sunday Independent

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