To get to truth of Bailey case may require judicial inquiry
Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30
Out walking one day in West Cork, Sophie Toscan du Plantier discovered a dead sheep on a path. Its carcass was "an empty envelope mixed with dirt and blood", she noted in her diary, adding: "You die in the wind, in the sea, on the land here; the rottenness is spread out in daylight, perfectly naturally."
Read now, in the knowledge of her own savage murder in the lane leading up to her house on December 23 1996, her words are chillingly prophetic.
While there was nothing natural about her brutal killing, the rottenness from that evil act has spread out and cast a shadow over the most important institutions of the State.
The murder, the first in living memory in the remote area near Schull, in remotest West Cork was savage.
Not content with killing her, Ms Toscan du Plantier's murderer tried to obliterate her.
She had been beaten beyond recognition, suffering more than 50 injuries before her face was smashed with a concrete block. Detectives assigned to the case were hopeful of quickly finding her killer, but from the start their investigation was mired in controversy and accusations of bungling.
The then State pathologist, Professor John Harbison, didn't arrive at the scene for more than 24 hours, making it impossible to definitively establish a time of death. The victim's family found out about her death from French television because gardaí failed to call them once her identity was confirmed.
There have also been questions about the preservation of the scene once the body was discovered.
Gardaí ultimately sent a 1,000-page file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) but, while the one time journalist Ian Bailey was the self-described chief suspect, nobody was ever charged.
Despite this, the case remains one of the most litigated, and closely scrutinised, in Irish legal history.
There have been defamation actions, extradition hearings and, in the latest instalment, the lengthiest civil action in the history of the State.
Bailey alleged gardaí had conspired to implicate him in Ms Toscan du Plantier's murder, but some of the most persuasive testimony he had to back up his claim was deemed inadmissible because of the statute of limitations.
Ultimately, Bailey's case rested on the testimony of a self-confessed liar, Marie Farrell, who, ironically, had been a star witness against him in his defamation case against seven newspapers in 2003.
Back then, under oath, she alleged Bailey was harassing her and trying to intimidate her into retracting a statement that placed him near Ms Toscan du Plantier's home on the night of the murder.
This time, during the marathon case in which Bailey failed to prove a conspiracy against him by An Garda Siochana and the Irish State, Farrell did a complete volte-face.
She claimed it was the gardaí who had intimidated and coerced her into making false statements against Bailey.
She fell apart in the witness box in Dublin, even standing up during cross-examination and announcing she was "off", an incident that prompted Judge John Hedigan to warn her of "severe sanctions" for perjury when she returned to the court.
As Bailey contemplates an appeal, his partner Jules Thomas is preparing for her case against the State, alleging an unlawful arrest. A Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into Bailey's treatment by Gardaí is also due around then, which can be added to the two separate Garda inquiries the initial investigation has undergone.
While we can all agree that Bailey, who has a history of violence against his partner, is not a sympathetic character, the questions raised by this case are troubling and need to be answered.
If the GSOC probe doesn't provide answers, a judicial inquiry to establish the facts is warranted.