Sunday 17 December 2017

Bailey trial: Retired detective denies he was 'quite happy' to predate statements

Jim Fitzgerald pictured leaving the Four Courts
Jim Fitzgerald pictured leaving the Four Courts

A Garda Detective involved in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation has denied that remarks by him made during a recorded phone conversation with another Garda showed he was "quite happy" to predate statements.

Jim Fitzgerald, now retired, agreed predating statements is a corrupt practice and said he would not do it and was not suggesting it during that phone call.

He was being asked about his replying: "Exactly" to a remark by another Garda "can always predate it" when both gardai were discussing in April 1997 the possibility of a complaint of assault being made against Marie Farrell's husband by an alleged prowler at their home.

When Tom Creed SC, for Ian Bailey, suggested Mr Fitzgerald was quite happy to predate statements because Marie Farrell had been good to the gardai, Mr Fitzgerald said there was a murder investigation and "you always have to look at the bigger picture".

When counsel suggested the alleged prowler was discouraged by gardai not to make a complaint against Mr Farrell, Mr Fitzgerald said the alleged prowler was "briefed and informed of the full facts".

When put to him he had fixed the complaint about the alleged assault and had suggested evidence could be invented to address the situation, he denied that. He said both parties knew they were wrong.

Asked about his referring to the alleged prowler as an "auld bollocks", he said that was "a figure of speech in a phone call that was illegally taped".

He said the language was "inappropriate" but he did not know calls were being taped and he believed he could speak more freely and more expressively.

Asked did he not have a very personal relationship with Ms Farrell given that in one conversation with her in April 1997 he had criticised her husband, he said he had a lot of contact with her and was dealing with her on a very frequent basis.

Ms Farrell was obviously having difficult with her husband, he said. He agreed one would have to be quite familiar with someone before you would criticise their spouse.

"This was not a normal situation," he said. He said he made the remark in question at a time when Ms Farrell had just been diagnosed with cancer on top on other problems she was experiencing.

He also agreed he told another Garda twice during a recorded phone conversation that Ms Farrell had seen Ian Bailey "washing himself in the water".

That was "a figure of speech" and was incorrect because Ms Farrell had in a statement said she saw Mr Bailey at Kealfada Bridge on the road near Schull in the early hours of December 23rd 1996, he said.

Mr Fitzgerald remains under cross-examination in the continuing action by Ian Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996.

The defendants deny all his claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Today, Mr Fitzgerald said the only stipulation Ms Farrell made when she made a statement in Ballydehob garda station was that she would not name her companion on the night of December 22/23rd 1996 in the statement.

When counsel said another recorded phone call indicated he told another Garda she had made a statement on condition her companion would not be interviewed, he said that was not the stipulation and the condition was she would not name him in the statement.

Asked why he had referred to being interviewed, he said: “It’s just words on a phone.”

His own actions were the opposite of not interviewing the man because he had done everything in his power to find him, he said. There was a situation arising and a clear desire to have him interviewed and the murder incident room was more or less detailing him  to go and track him down, he said.

He said he was trying to get the best results he could and to corroborate Ms Farrell's sighting at the bridge. His reference to being under "fierce pressure" in a phone call was that the incident room wanted him to deal with it while Ms Farrell wanted to bring the man to Cork so Mr Fitzgerald could interview him there. There was no stipulation he would never be interviewed, he said.

He agreed Ms Farrell had given an incorrect name as her companion but said he understood she was compromised. Gardaí had in May 1997 left the door open because there was always the possibility she would identify him correctly, he said.

The case continues.

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