Sunday 19 November 2017

Detective Inspector denies Ian Bailey's partner was arrested in order to pressurise him

Mr Kelleher also denies shoving crotch in journalist's face during garda interview

Retired Garda Michael Kelleher pictured leaving the Four Courts after giving evidence in the High Court action for damages by Ian Bailey.
Retired Garda Michael Kelleher pictured leaving the Four Courts after giving evidence in the High Court action for damages by Ian Bailey.

A Detective Garda has denied gardai arrested Ian Bailey's partner in bad faith so as to put pressure on Mr Bailey.

There was a reasonable suspicion Jules Thomas was "an accessory after the fact" and had at one stage told "lies" concerning Mr Bailey being at home on the morning of December 23rd 1996, Det Inspector Michael Kelleher, now retired, said.

Mr Kellleher also said he was "disgusted" Mr Bailey had said he recognised, when he saw Mr Kelleher in court, as the Garda who allegedly "shoved" his crotch towards Mr Bailey's face during an interview in Bandon garda station on February 10th 1997. Mr Kelleher has denied there was any such incident.

Mr Kelleher said he had attended court during Mr Bailey's libel actions in 2003 and had also seen Mr Bailey several times when both were studying law around the same time in University College Cork.  It was not correct to say the first time Mr Bailey had set eyes on him since 1997 was in court and he was "disgusted" about that.

Read more: Solicitor 'asked by Garda Chief Superintendent to contact Justice minister' over Ian Bailey, court told

Mr Kelleher is under continuing cross-examination in the action by Mr 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 her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996.

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

Today, Mr Creed asked Mr Kellleher about evidence from another witness - Det Garda John Culligan - that he gave four grounds for the detention of Mr Bailey on February 10th 1997 -  he had a false alibi, he had admitted to the murder to "a companion", he had scratches and he was seen at Kealfada Bridge, near Schull.

Mr Kelleher said he understood the false alibi to mean Mr Bailey had said he was at home in bed with Ms Thomas when there was a sighting of him at Kealfada Bridge.

He agreed that, when Marie Farrell had told gardai she saw a "weird-looking" man, aged in his late thirties and wearing a "long black coat" outside her shop on December 21st 1996, he believed that could suggest Mr Bailey.

Mr Kelleher said all statements made during the inquiry, not just Ms Farrell's, were "considered".

He agreed Mr Bailey was asked on different occasions about his movements and his scratches and Ms Thomas and her daughters were also asked about that.

He denied the Garda "mindset" was they did not accept Mr Bailey's explanation he got the scratches from cutting down a Christmas tree.

Everything was considered, Mr Kelleher said. He agreed there was a considered opinion among some gardai Mr Bailey's scratches were briar scratches.

He agreed a Garda note of an anonymous call to gardai from a woman who called herself Fiona but who turned out to be Marie Farrell, had stated that, at 4am, she observed a "lone male near knitwear shop, long back coat, hat, he appeared to be stumbling along".

Read more: Ian Bailey case adjourned as juror unable to attend court

He said he did not initially have concerns about Ms Farrell's credibility, in terms of what she had said about various sightings of a man. He understood she had lied about certain matters because she was "in a compromised position".

He did not accept that statements by other persons necessarily supported Mr Bailey's account of his movements on the morning of December 22nd 1997. It was Christmas time and there was "a lot of drink consumed" and people could have been honestly mistaken about times, he said.

Asked was the statement by Ms Farrell about her sightings not considered very significant, he said it was "another building block" towards a reasonable suspicion. He could not recall, by the time she made her statements, how many suspects had been eliminated by the investigating team.

There were several suspects and each had their own file, including Mr Bailey. He said no formal notes were taken of case conferences in the investigation.

He could not recall exactly when it was decided to arrest Mr Bailey but it would have been in the days preceding February 10th 1997, the day of arrest.

Mr Kelleher said the "jobs book" relating to tasks allocated during the investigation was no longer in his possession. When Mr Creed said it would be helpful if the jobs book was produced, the jury was told by State counsel all material relevant to the case from that jobs book had been discovered.

When Mr Creed said he wanted to ask questions concerning the arrest of Ms Thomas because it was his case she was arrested to put pressure on Mr Bailey, the State objected, saying Ms Thomas had a separate legal action. The jury were sent out while the judge dealt with the issue.

When the case resumed, Mr Kelleher agreed Ms Thomas was arrested under common law for the crime of murder. When a person is arrested for murder, it does not mean they themselves have had to have committed murder, they could have aided and abetted it or being an accessory, he said.

Read more: Insufficient evidence to prosecute Ian Bailey for Du Plantier murder, former DPP tells court

Ms Thomas was aware Mr Bailey had left the house on the morning of December 23rd, he said. There was a reasonable suspicion she was complicit in this matter, that she was "an accessory after the fact, he said.

That was borne out by her admission Mr Bailey did leave the house which was lied about previously and Mr Bailey also himself admitted he left the house, he added.

Asked why the fact Mr Bailey left the house made a person an accessory after the fact, he said: "Why the lies?" It was all part of the "building blocks", he said.

When counsel suggested the only reason she was arrested was to put pressure on Mr Bailey and that was bad faith on the part of the guards, he denied that was the case. He agreed the arrests of Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas were both arranged prior to their happening. There was a basis for the arrest of Ms Thomas, he said.

He agreed Ms Thomas had denied any knowledge of the murder aside from what she had heard was in the papers.

The false alibi ground for Mr Bailey's arrest was that he had not left his house on the night of December 22/23rd 1996, Mr Kelleher said. He had said during his arrest he had gone to the studio house near Ms Thomas' home to write.

When the witness said he understood Mr Bailey had said he went there sometime after 2am, Mr Creed said he did not think that was correct.

The case continues.

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