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Detective tells court investigators had five reasons to arrest Bailey for murder

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Ian Bailey outside court. Photo: Courtpix

Ian Bailey outside court. Photo: Courtpix

Ian Bailey outside court. Photo: Courtpix

A Detective Garda has told the High Court there were five reasons for arresting Ian Bailey for the late 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, including that Mr Bailey had told people he committed the murder.

John Paul Culligan, now retired, said he had gone with two other gardai to Mr Bailey's studio house, located close to the home he shared with his partner Jules Thomas, near Schull on February 10th 1997.

When the Garda patrol car containing Mr Bailey was leaving, Ms Thomas had put her hand in the car window and told Mr Bailey: "Remember, they have nothing on you, nothing on you, I love you and I’ll swear that in court", he said.

Mr Culligan is giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State who deny his claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy, arising from the conduct of the murder investigation.

Mr Culligan said today he was part of the team investigating the murder of Ms du Plantier whose body was found near her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996.

He had previously taken a note of Mr Bailey's account of his movements around the time of the murder and took another note from Mr Bailey at his home at the Prairie, Schull, on the morning of February 10th 1997. 

He had read over the note to Mr Bailey who had indicated he was unhappy with a reference in it to a "long black coat that I am now wearing". He gave Mr Bailey his biro to make an amendment to that, Mr Bailey did so and then signed it.

Mr Culligan said he then told Mr Bailey he was arresting him for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on December 22/23rd 1996.

He had arrested Mr Bailey under common law based on information in his possession.

His reasons for arresting Mr Bailey were, one, that Mr Bailey had had several opportunities to account for his movements and they were "not correct"; two, that he had scratches on both arms; three, gardai were told he had been seen at Kealfadda Bridge (near Schull) at 3am; four, he was very violent towards his partner Jules Thomas and; five, Mr Bailey had told people he committed the murder.

Mr Culligan said Mr Bailey had not just said that he did it, he had also said how he did it. He had told a local youth, Malachy Reid, he went up there one morning with a rock and beat her brains out.

Mr Culligan said he had cautioned Mr Bailey who had gesticulated and said words to the effect: "You can't be serious, you can't do this to me, I’m shocked."

He had given Mr Bailey an opportunity to change before taking him, at his request, to Ms Thomas' house in the Garda patrol car.

Ms Thomas was told Mr Bailey was under arrest and was being taken to Bandon garda station, Mr Culligan said. Mr Bailey talked to Ms Thomas about a phone bill or something like that.

Ms Thomas had put her hand in the patrol car window and told Mr Bailey: "Remember, they have nothing on you, nothing on you, I love you and I’ll swear that in court."

During the car journey, Mr Bailey denied any involvement in the murder and said he was at the murder scene later on December 23rd 1996 with other journalists, Mr Culligan said.  Mr Bailey said he got a phone call about 2.30am that day saying a French lady had been murdered and he went to Alfie Lyons house in the Toormore area because he had a hunch it was there, Mr Culligan added.

At Bandon Garda station, he could see a cameraman sitting on a wall and he told the patrol car driver, Sergeant Liam Hogan, to stop. They arranged to go in the back door of the station but unfortunately a photo was taken, he said.

Nothing untoward happened in his interactions with Mr Bailey, he added.

In cross-examination by Ronan Munro BL, for Mr Bailey, Mr Culligan said he had decided himself this man had to be arrested. Other gardai felt the same way as him and his superiors were also involved.

He had an opinion himself this man had to be arrested and the matter was discussed at case conferences.

Mr Culligan said he had been dealing with Mr Bailey from the very start of the investigation. Mr Bailey had beaten his partner to such an extent she was hospitalised, he said.

He believed Mr Bailey had to be arrested but no one told him Mr Bailey must be arrested, he made up his own mind. It was obviously agreed Mr Bailey would be arrested, he added.

He agreed he had interviewed another man whom local people had alleged was taking items from their homes, including gas canisters, while they were at mass.

This man was a person of interest in the murder investigation because he wandered around visiting houses, he said. The man had denied taking things but had no explanation for certain items on his property.

Mr Culligan said he had not arrested the man because he was elderly, living in poor circumstances and he felt sorry for him.

The case continues.

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