independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s uncle urges case review

THE uncle of Sophie Toscan du Plantier has urged cold case chiefs to bring in scientists and specialists to reconstruct investigations into her violent death.

The Frenchwoman was murdered 16 years ago, two days before Christmas, close to her holiday home in Schull, west Cork.

Jean Pierre Gazeau and his solicitors held talks with the Garda cold case unit in a bid to have the controversial investigation reviewed and someone brought to justice.

He believes the family are victims of major contradictions between gardai and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who ruled there was not enough evidence to prosecute their suspect, Ian Bailey.

"It is necessary to clear this problem completely," said Mr Gazeau.

"So we'll ask for a complete reconstruction of the case in a scientific way. It's like a kind of review, but it's an even more comprehensive review. We put scientists, we put many people together, specialists, in order to really reconsider the whole case."

Mr Bailey, who vehemently denies any involvement in Ms Toscan du Plantier's death, was arrested and questioned twice by investigators but never charged.

Mr Gazeau met Detective Superintendent Christy Mangan, who heads up the Serious Crime Review Team, at a conference in Dublin where calls were made for a Family Justice Centre to open in Ireland.

Since 1996 there have been 187 women murdered in the Republic of Ireland, while one in five women nationwide are said to be affected by physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

The one-stop-shop would give vulnerable women a place to report attacks as well as seek medical, legal, welfare and housing support.

Mr Gazeau maintained several pieces of evidence and witness statements must be forensically reviewed, and claimed there were also contradictions by Mr Bailey which need to be examined.

Earlier this year Mr Bailey, 54, won a two-year legal challenge against his extradition to France for questioning, but Mr Gazeau is confident a trial will be held in Mr Bailey's absence.

The former journalist is taking legal action against the State for wrongful arrest, while the Garda Ombudsman is investigating a complaint that new files claim the original Garda probe was flawed.

It is understood this has been stalled due to a delay in the force handing over documentation.

Mr Gazeau said the family want truth and justice for his niece, who was 39 when she was beaten to death.

"Of course it is traumatic for the parents, traumatic for the family who wait for that. But in a way it's not a question of time, we will fight to the end," he added.

Under French law, authorities can investigate the suspicious death of a citizen abroad but they cannot compel witnesses to go to Paris for questioning.

Ireland's Supreme Court and ruled that under Irish law Mr Bailey, a former journalist, could only be extradited to face prosecution, and not for questioning.

The family's lawyer, Alain Spilliaert, said authorities in Paris should be finished their investigation within months, after French investigators return to Cork to continue questioning witnesses in the new year, with a trial then held in Mr Bailey's absence.

If convicted, a fresh bid to extradite Mr Bailey will be launched.

Mr Spilliaert said: "We are still very confident justice will prevail.

"Now only is this a fight for the family, the parents are suffering for 16 years, but it is also a fight for the whole region of west Cork.

"It's a real public interest here."

Press Association

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