Saturday 7 December 2019

Bailey denies telling man 'that was me' in chat about murder

Ian Bailey arrives at the Four Courts
Ian Bailey arrives at the Four Courts

Tim Healy

Journalist Ian Bailey has denied asking a man in a pub whether he knew about "the murder in Schull" before telling the man, with a smirk: "That was me."

Mr Bailey was being asked about statements to gardai made by James McKenna, stating he was in "absolutely no doubt" the man whom he spoke to was "admitting to murder".

Mr McKenna, from Northern Ireland, said in statements he and his wife had a conversation with Mr Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas in the Galley Inn pub in Schull, Co Cork on the night of April 8, 1997.

During that conversation, Mr Bailey had asked him had he heard about the murder in Schull, Mr McKenna stated.

He had told Mr Bailey he heard about the murder on the news in Northern Ireland and Mr Bailey looked at him "in the eye" and, in a "deliberate voice", said: "That was me." Mr Bailey was "smirking", he added.

Mr McKenna said he was "numb with shock", later contacted the gardai and made statements.

The statements were read during the ongoing cross-examination of Mr Bailey in his action against the Garda Commissioner and State.

They deny his claims for wrongful arrest and conspiracy arising from the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found in Schull on December 23, 1996. Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in her death.

Luán O Braonáin SC, for the State, yesterday put to Mr Bailey that Mr McKenna's statements were significant and among the reasons grounding Mr Bailey's second arrest by garda on January 27, 1998.

Mr Bailey agreed he and Ms Thomas had a conversation with Mr McKenna and his wife in the Galley Inn but said he had always denied making the comments attributed to him by Mr McKenna.

Counsel put it to Mr Bailey that gardai were entitled to also take into consideration he had told journalist Helen Callanan and a local boy, Malachy Reid, he had killed Ms Toscan du Plantier.

Mr Bailey said those were alleged informal admissions.

What he said to Ms Callanan was "a black joke" and what he had told Mr Reid was that other people were saying he had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he said.

Mr Bailey said the statements had to be considered in the context of other matters he was not allowed refer to and he was in a "David and Goliath" situation.

Mr Justice John Hedigan told the jury Mr Bailey was referring to an assessment of evidence made by the DPP's office and to material grounding an application by French authorities for his extradition.

The court previously decided, to "balance" the sides, those materials should not be admitted into evidence and there was no "dark secret lurking" in the background, he said.

Mr Bailey also told the court he was aware Marie Farrell had given media interviews alleging he had intimidated and threatened her.

After she had alleged he intimidated her on a date when he was in his solicitor's office in Cork, his solicitor Frank Buttimer wrote to her in March 2004 asking her to retract her claims and undertake not to repeat them or legal proceedings would be taken.

Letter

Counsel said solicitor Ernest Cantillon replied on behalf of Ms Farrell on April 19, 2004, stating she could not respond to allegations about unspecified articles and programmes and alleging Mr Bailey had engaged in threatening and abusive behaviour towards Ms Farrell.

The letter refused any retraction or undertaking and said a counter claim would be lodged if Mr Bailey's "abusive" behaviour persists.

He believed, sometime after his second arrest in January 1998, Ms Farrell phoned his home and had spoken to his partner Ms Thomas and asked to speak to him but he refused. "I didn't want anything to do with her."

Ms Farrell later gave evidence adverse to him in his libel proceedings against various media and he considered those proceedings were "hijacked" by the gardai, he said.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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