Wednesday 20 September 2017

Top gardai 'put pressure on DPP' to charge Bailey over du Plantier

Jean Pierre Gazeau, uncle of of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, holds up a book he has written with Jean Antone Bloc about the murder. Photo: Michael McSweeney/Provision
Jean Pierre Gazeau, uncle of of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, holds up a book he has written with Jean Antone Bloc about the murder. Photo: Michael McSweeney/Provision
MYSTERY: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered in 1996
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THREE top-ranking gardai have been named in connection with an alleged attempt to put political pressure on the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge Ian Bailey with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The names of the three senior officers were disclosed last week to Mr Bailey's legal team as part of his legal action against the State for wrongful arrest.

The officers are identified in separate memos written by State prosecutors about a key meeting in Bandon Garda Station in Cork, at which the attempt to improperly influence the DPP allegedly took place.

However, there is confusion in the memos over which one of them suggested influencing the Justice Minister to secure a prosecution.

The three named garda officers are alleged to have attended the meeting in Bandon Garda Station, in or around 1998, after Mr Bailey had been re-arrested in connection with the murder of the French woman.

Two of the senior officers have since retired from the force and a third is dead. The surviving officers may now be called as witnesses in the English journalist's legal action, in which he claims that he was set up for the French film producer's murder.

She was beaten to death at her holiday home in Schull in west Cork in December 1996.

The retired DPP, Eamon Barnes, first disclosed three years ago that gardai had allegedly tried to influence his decision on whether to prosecute Ian Bailey at a time when the journalist was facing extradition to France for the crime.

Memos detailing what Mr Barnes called a "grossly improper" approach were released to Mr Bailey's legal team at the time but the names of the three senior gardai allegedly involved had been redacted.

The unredacted versions were disclosed by the DPP's office for the first time last week on foot of a court order.

In his memo, Malachy Boohig, the State solicitor for Cork, wrote that he was asked to go to a meeting in Bandon Garda Station one evening on his way home from work.

He named two high-ranking officers who pressed on him that Ian Bailey should be prosecuted.

"Both stated in very strong terms that I would have to persuade the director to direct a prosecution," said Mr Boohig.

He said the two officers followed him out of the room and one named officer said "He was aware I had attended college and studied with John O'Donoghue, the then justice minister, and that I should use that connection to talk to the minister to see if something could be done. I made no reply. I did not contact the minister."

Also disclosed last week was a memo from Robert Sheehan, who was a senior official in the DPP's office at the time. He names both the officers identified by Malachy Boohig but also introduces a third named officer.

His memo identifies this person as asking Mr Boohig to use his influence with John O'Donoghue.

"He knew Malachy was a classmate of Minister John O'Donoghue and could he use his influence in that quarter to assist in getting Bailey charged."

In his account, Eamon Barnes, the retired DPP, wrote that he was "clear in his recollection" of what happened.

"Mr Boohig rang, asking to see me about a matter which he did not wish to discuss over the telephone. He said that if I was available he would come to Dublin that afternoon from west Cork."

At their subsequent meeting, Mr Boohig told him how a named senior officer asked him if he was "at school" with John O'Donoghue.

"When Mr Boohig confirmed that this was so, the (named senior officer) asked him to ask the minister to bring pressure to bear on the DPP to authorise a charge of murder against Ian Bailey."

Mr Barnes took no further action at the time. But in October 2011, as Ian Bailey was facing extradition to France for the crime, Mr Barnes alerted his successor at the DPP's office to the "grossly improper" attempt to influence him. He described the garda investigation as "thoroughly flawed" and "prejudiced".

The Attorney General, Marie Whelan, advised that both Mr Barnes's correspondence and the DPP's file be released to Mr Bailey in the interests of natural justice: he was facing a possible trial in France and was entitled to the material to defend himself.

Contacted by the Sunday Independent yesterday, the officer identified by Robert Sheehan vehemently denied being at any such meeting in Bandon Garda Station and also vehemently denied making any attempt to influence Malachy Boohig.

A second officer, who was named by Malachy Boohig as the garda member who asked him to use his influence with John O'Donoghue, said he would not be making any comment until the case comes up in court.

Sunday Independent

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