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Monday 20 November 2017

Bailey 'to be tried in France over Sophie's killing'

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

IAN Bailey is expected to be tried in France for the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier within six months – even though he will not attend the trial.

The family of the French mother of one revealed that they expected a Paris magistrate who has been leading a five-year probe into the 1996 killing to conclude his report next November.

He is then expected to recommend by January that Mr Bailey face court proceedings in France.

Mr Bailey (56), who has protested his innocence over the matter and is now suing the State and gardai for wrongful arrest, has repeatedly predicted that the French will attempt to try him in absentia.

But Alain Spilliaert, the solicitor for Sophie's parents Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, confirmed to the Irish Independent that the family expected a trial process in France to be launched by the new year.

"Judge (Patrick) Gachon is willing to finish his investigation as soon as possible," Mr Spilliaert said.

However, delays to the investigation have meant that an elite team of French detectives will not travel to west Cork until September to conclude their interviews with witnesses from the original garda murder file. The team had been scheduled to visit Ireland in May/June.

However, Sophie's family expected Mr Gachon to conclude his report in November and make a recommendation about a French trial process in January.

That will go to the Court d'Accusation, which will have to ratify a trial in absentia before the Court d'Assizes in Paris.

INVESTIGATION

The mother of one was found battered to death on a laneway leading to her holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork on December 23, 1996.

Nobody has ever been charged with her killing.

It will be the third visit to Ireland by French detectives in four years.

The visit is a follow-up to the major investigation carried out by Paris policemen in west Cork in October 2011 when key witnesses in the garda murder file were re-interviewed.

The French police team are also liaising with a garda 'cold case' murder unit who are reviewing the original file.

The head of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team, Det Supt Christy Mangan, met last year with representatives of Sophie's family.

The 'cold case' review was launched following a direct appeal from Sophie's parents last September.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice by gardai and released without charge on both occasions in 1997 and 1998. He is now suing the State for wrongful arrest and has claimed that "sinister attempts" were made to frame him for the crime.

The Manchester-born former freelance journalist won a Supreme Court battle against extradition to France last year.

Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, has consistently claimed that the French will attempt to try his client in absentia despite the stark revelations during the Supreme Court extradition process.

The Supreme Court heard that a briefing memo by a Director of Public Prosecutions official was highly critical of the original garda investigation and said there was no evidence against Mr Bailey.

Irish Independent

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