Saturday 20 January 2018

Detective denies he told Marie Farrell gardai knew Ian Bailey killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier, court hears

A Detective Garda has denied he told Marie Farrell that gardai knew Ian Bailey had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier and needed Ms Farrell to say Mr Bailey was the man she saw near Schull hours before the body was found.

Jim Fitzgerald also denied claims by Ms Farrell that she was asked to sign blank pages of a statement to be filled in later by gardai.

He denied suggestions that statements were dictated to Ms Farrell at Ballydebhob garda station on February 14th 1997.

He said Ms Farrell made a statement on February 14th 1997 in which she said she saw Mr Bailey on the night of December 22/23rd 1996. That statement was signed by her and witnessed by him and other gardai who were present, he said.

The first reference he heard to an allegation that a "blank" statement was given to Ms Farrell was from Mr Bailey himself on the Vincent Browne tv show in 2012, he added.

Mr Fitzgerald, now retired, has begun giving evidence in the continuing civil action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found near Toormore, Scull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996.

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

Today, Mr Fitzgerald said he joined the Garda in 1973 and was attached to the detective branch in Bandon from 1981. He was involved in the du Plantier murder investigation from December 23rd 1996 when he went to the scene with Det Sgt Maurice Walsh and Garda Liam Leahy.

He said he went to a meeting concerning the murder investigation on the evening of December 23rd and was detailed to talk to Josie Helen, the caretaker of the victim's house, about Ms du Plantier's movements and plans for her tine in Ireland.

Over the first month of the investigation, he carried out general duties including inquiring into various persons of interest. He first saw Mr Bailey at the time of his arrest on February 10th 1997 but did not formally meet him. He also first met Mr Bailey's partner Jules Thomas on that day.

He had attended conferences concerning the murder which would be formal in the sense jobs would be allocated and reports on those jobs would be made.

He became aware an anonymous female caller, "Fiona" had phoned the investigation on January 11th 1997 and had agreed she would come to Bandon garda station on January 25th 1997 but she had not done so.

On instructions of a superior officer, he took steps to trace her and was later told her call was traced to a private house in Schull where the phone subscriber was Christopher Farrell.

He said Schull-based Garda Kevin Kelleher later identified the voice on a recorded call to the garda station as Marie Farrell and it was decided on January 28th 1997 Garda Kelleher would go and speak to her.

Garda Kelleher subsequently rang the station, he answered the call and he and Det Garda Jim Slattery went to Garda Kelleher's house where they met Marie Farrell.

He said Garda Kelleher asked Ms Farrell to outline what happened and she said she had made the phone calls and had seen a man at the bridge whom she now knew to be Ian Bailey. He said she had said she was out with a friend that night and was not supposed to be out.

The TV was on but nothing was played on that in his presence, he said.

He knew Ms Farrell had given a different account of what occurred in Garda Kelleher's house but her account was not correct.

Asked had he said gardai knew it was Ian Bailey who did the murder, they needed her to say it was him at the bridge and she would not have to make any statement, he said that was not correct.

He had not met Mr Bailey at that time, he said. He knew Mr Bailey was a suspect among other suspects but had not gone to meet Ms Farrell with any "agenda". Gardaí wanted to clear up she was Fiona and find out what she had seen, he said.

No statement was taken from Ms Farrell that day because she had said she did not want to make a statement due to personal difficulties, he said. He agreed she had taken gardai to the location near Schull where she said she saw a man on the night of December 22/23rd 1996.

The murder incident room in Bantry garda station was briefed concerning the encounter with Ms Farrell, he said.

He said he had on February 7th 1997 written up a memo based on the conversation with Ms Farrell, Det Slattery was with him when he did that and both signed it.

He said he had nothing to do with the February 10th 1997 arrest of Mr Bailey but had interviewed Ms Thomas that same evening. Notes of that interview were taken and read over to her and she had acknowledged those were correct and signed it, he said.

On February 11th 1997, he said he recalled certain things she had said on February 10th and wrote an account of those. He said those matters included references by her  concerning a fire near her mother's house and had also said she was assaulted at a house in Cork by Mr Bailey. He noted she had also said Ian may have used her car on December 21st but she was not sure. Those notes were not put to Ms Thomas, he said.

He said he was later told by Garda Kelleher Marie Farrell would meet gardai at Ballydehob garda station on February 14th 1997. Ms Farrell was inside with Garda Kelleher when he and Det Garda Slattery arrived and she had said she would make a statement about seeing Mr Bailey on the night of December 22/23rd 1996, he said.

The case continues.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News