Friday 20 January 2017

'Secretive' Sophie was tough but fragile, her ex-lover tells police

Shane Phelan and Ralph Riegel

Published 20/12/2011 | 05:00

A MAN who admitted he was the lover of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) told police she was "secretive" and a woman of "many facets".

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The Irish Independent has learned that Bruno Carbonnet (54) -- who met Sophie through their mutual love of the arts -- was very quickly eliminated from the garda inquiry on the basis of his water-tight alibi.

Mr Carbonnet had a two-year affair with Sophie -- who was married to Daniel du Plantier at the time -- and was devastated when she ended their relationship in 1993.

The French artist, teacher and gallery operator could not be contacted for comment yesterday -- and has repeatedly refused over the past 15 years to make any public statements on the case.

In his statement to Rouen police, Mr Carbonnet revealed that Sophie was "tough but fragile" -- and that he had stayed at her isolated holiday home in west Cork on a number of occasions before their affair ended.

His statement was made just five days after the mother of one was discovered battered to death on the laneway to her holiday home near Schull.

He was interviewed by French police in consultation with the gardai on December 28, 1996.

Extradition

The interview was conducted a full month before Ian Bailey (54) was arrested for the first time by gardai in connection with Sophie's death.

Mr Bailey -- a British-born former freelance journalist -- is currently fighting a French bid to extradite him for questioning and possible trial in Paris.

He has repeatedly protested his innocence and claimed that attempts were made to frame him for the crime.

Mr Bailey now wants the Supreme Court to direct the High Court to rehear his extradition case on the basis of new state documents -- some of which reveal allegations of improper garda behaviour, the fact that there were other suspects in the case and that one garda allegedly tried to use cash and drugs to persuade an addict to assist their inquiry.

Mr Carbonnet -- in his French police statement -- gave an insight into the world Sophie created for herself in west Cork from 1991.

"Madam Toscan du Plantier was for me an intimate friend during the years 1992 and 1993. In fact, I have known her since the spring of 1992 when she was introduced to me... after a work meeting at the workshop of the art centre of the ephemeral hospital in Paris," he said.

"We afterwards became lovers. We went to Gooleen (Goleen, west Cork) in Ireland together, to the small house where I stayed and helped her to set herself up," he added.

"The first time I went over there was in the Easter of 1993 when I stayed for about a fortnight. I went there on two or three occasions and we spent the holidays there together," he added.

Mr Carbonnet said Sophie was "secret" and "discreet" but he believed that Mr du Plantier -- who died in 2003 while attending the Berlin film festival -- knew of their relationship.

"The last time that I went to this house in Ireland was during the summer of 1993. My affair with Sophie finished in Christmas 1993, a date on which she finished it without any warning. This end was very difficult for me.

"The last occasion that I have seen her again was at a burial in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris in March 1994. We had by then finished (our) relationship," he told police.

The last contact Mr Carbonnet had with Sophie was via telephone in November 1996 when he asked her to loan him back a painting of his which she had bought.

He was planning an exhibition the following January (1997) and needed the work for the show.

The artist said that Sophie loved west Cork because it suited her work.

"She was a writer herself. She was secretive. The motivation for the acquisition of this house in Ireland was linked with her writing. She was someone who was tough but fragile at the same time. She sought to isolate herself from the world of the mundane because of (the) personality of her husband," he said.

"Between Sophie and her husband there was in existence a type of a contract of luck for each other -- she would have to be present for certain occasions defined in advance. Sophie was a woman of many facets," he added.

Mr Carbonnet told police the first he heard of Sophie's death was in a phone call from a mutual French friend on Christmas Day 1996.

Irish Independent

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