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Bailey denies trying to strangle ex-wife

FREELANCE journalist Ian Bailey has denied that he tried to strangle his ex-wife during an argument in England. And he also rejected claims that Sophie Toscan du Plantier's death had initially boosted his journalistic career and that he had ever said: "There is no money in knocking people off."

FREELANCE journalist Ian Bailey has denied that he tried to strangle his ex-wife during an argument in England.

And he also rejected claims that Sophie Toscan du Plantier's death had initially boosted his journalistic career and that he had ever said: "There is no money in knocking people off."

Mr Bailey was giving evidence on the fourth day of his defamation action against eight Irish and English newspapers in Cork Circuit Civil Court over their coverage of the murder.

He claims he was demonised by the newspapers - and is now regularly referred to in west Cork as "the murderer".

However, no charges were ever brought by gardai in relation to the murder - and yesterday the court heard that hairs found close by Ms du Plantier's battered body turned out to be her own.

No DNA match was ever made despite an exhaustive garda forensic probe.

Yesterday, Mr Bailey, of Liscaha, Schull, Co Cork, denied that he was a regular drug user or that he tried to get himself hypnotised within hours of being released following his first arrest in connection with the murder probe.

The freelance reporter also rejected a witness's claim that, after cashing a newspaper cheque for £25 from The Examiner newspaper for reports he filed on the du Plantier murder, he commented: "That's all her death is worth to me."

In reference to his ex-wife, Sara Limbrick, Mr Bailey denied ever using violence to her - though he admitted their relationship was stormy. The court heard that a witness will claim Mr Bailey told him that he once had a blackout - and when he came out of it, he realised he was trying to strangle his wife, Ms Limbrick.

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"Absolutely not. It never happened," Mr Bailey said.

However, he acknowledged he was involved in a bitter row with his ex-wife when they divorced shortly after moving into a new house and he discovered that his name had not been put on the house deeds.

Mr Bailey dismissed many of the allegations levelled against him after Ms de Plantier's murder as "complete and utter garbage."

"They are fictions. Complete and utter nonsense. These things just never took place," he said. In an emotional outburst to the packed court, Mr Bailey said that he was "still under siege from the paparazzi".

Referring to his decision to give radio, TV, and newspaper interviews within hours of his release after his first arrest, Mr Bailey admitted that he had made mistakes. "I didn't handle it very well. But the pressure was incredible. What was one supposed to do?" he asked.

"We were under siege. And knowing that these people (the media) were there to get information, the best way to get rid of them was to give them some information. So I gave information to these people so that they would kindly let us get on with our lives," he added.

In reference to claims that he used marijuana, Mr Bailey denied that he was a regular drug user, insisting: "I have been clean and sober for some time." However, a 1993 entry in Mr Bailey's personal diary revealed: "I am totally obsessed by sex - I love my drugs and I adore my drink."

Mr Bailey insisted that this was only a poetic allusion to a rock anthem by singer Ian Dury. He also flatly rejected a claim by a former work colleague, Bill Fuller,that he once greeted him at his Schull home wearing a black kilt and offering him a drink of cider and a pipe of hash.

Mr Bailey denied ever having met Ms du Plantier and said that she appeared "quite plain" in her picture in the newspapers. He said reports that he had a premonition the night before Sophie's death were inaccurate.

But he admitted stopping his car on a mountain road which overlooks the area where Sophie was killed on December 22 and having "a feeling."

"Yes, I did have a feeling. But it was a feeling rather than a premonition. I think they were trying to make it out to be more than it was," he added.

It also emerged yesterday that neighbours claim they saw him burning material in a bonfire on St Stephen's day 1996 - just three days after the murder. Mr Bailey denied any recollection of a fire over Christmas 1996.

"That is a complete mystery to me," he said. "There was no fire. I am 100pc certain it was not started by myself and not started by Jules".

The freelance journalist stressed that there had been fires at the spot - but none since late November when he and Jules Thomas had been cleaning old papers from the house.

Mr Bailey is seeking damages from the Sunday Independent, the Independent on Sunday, the Irish Sun, the Irish Mirror, the Irish Star, the Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, and The (London) Times.

The hearing continues today.


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