Wednesday 20 September 2017

Sophie probe gardaí 'were willing to contemplate altering evidence'

Evidence of the highly questionable behaviour by gardaí was uncovered in a trove of 297 phone calls recorded at Bandon Garda Station (Stock picture)
Evidence of the highly questionable behaviour by gardaí was uncovered in a trove of 297 phone calls recorded at Bandon Garda Station (Stock picture)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A number of gardaí involved in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation were willing to contemplate altering, modifying or suppressing evidence that did not further the belief Ian Bailey was her killer.

They included an officer responsible for preparing a report on the investigation for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Fennelly Commission found officers also engaged in the apparently inappropriate disclosure of information about the investigation to a number of civilians, including a journalist.

It also found that four solicitor/client conversations linked to the Toscan du Plantier investigation were recorded at Bandon Garda Station in west Cork.

The commission was not able to establish if the calls were subsequently listened to by gardaí.

Other conversations involving gardaí include derogatory remarks about Mr Bailey, who has always maintained he was not involved in the December 1996 murder of the French filmmaker. He is currently battling efforts by French authorities to have him extradited to face trial in Paris.

Evidence of the highly questionable behaviour by gardaí was uncovered in a trove of 297 phone calls recorded at Bandon Garda Station.

Although there was no proof that evidence was altered, modified or suppressed, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly found that suggesting or discussing such a course of action could, in itself, amount to improper conduct.

The phone calls included conversations with a potential witness who expressly or impliedly made requests to gardaí for the supply of drugs, either to facilitate or in consideration of his assistance in the Garda investigation.

There was no evidence from the calls that the gardaí involved agreed to the requests.

The man who sought the drugs was not named in the report, but has been named in court proceedings as former British soldier Martin Graham.

In another conversation a garda indicated a willingness to backdate a statement in relation to an alleged assault committed by the husband of a key witness in the investigation. Mr Justice Fennelly said this disclosed "evidence of improper conduct".

The people involved were not named in the report, but a previous court case heard claims from Mr Bailey's legal team that gardaí got a local man to withdraw a complaint he was assaulted by Chris Farrell, the husband of key witness Marie Farrell, to "keep her sweet".

Although most garda stations examined by Mr Justice Fennelly only had one phone which was recorded, calls relevant to the Toscan du Plantier investigation were recorded on five different lines.

The commission found that over the course of one week in June 1997, there were a number of telephone calls involving an officer dubbed Detective Sergeant Alpha and several people, all of them civilians, in which he discussed the investigation.

In one call with an unidentified woman on June 18, the detective sergeant suggested Mr Bailey was being shielded by the people he was living with.

The following day, in an "off the record" conversation with a journalist working for a UK publication, the officer alleged Mr Bailey was attempting to use the media to build an argument that, due to negative publicity, a fair trial would be impossible.

On June 23, in a call to a family member, the detective sergeant discussed the progress of the investigation and referred to Mr Bailey as "a cunning bastard". A day later in a conversation with an employee of the Revenue Commissioners, he made allegations concerning Mr Bailey, including that he had beaten his partner "to a pulp a few times" and that gardaí believed he had committed similar assaults in England. On the same day in a call with a local TD, the garda sergeant said Mr Bailey's re-arrest was imminent.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News