Monday 23 October 2017

Editor was 'flabbergasted' after Bailey told her he killed Sophie

Tim Healy

A JOURNALIST did not consider Ian Bailey was engaging in "black humour" when he told her he killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his career, the High Court heard.

Helen Callanan, a 'Sunday Tribune' news editor in 1996, told the court Mr Bailey said: "It was me, I did it, I killed her to resurrect my career."

The conversation took place over the phone when Mr Bailey was supplying stories to the Tribune as a local journalist in Cork.

She said she took that as a confession, and had reported it to gardaí.

The court heard that she told Mr Bailey in early February 1997 she had been told he was "the suspect in the case".

Mr Bailey's response was "incredible". He was "cool and calm", asked her who told her and said it was worth €20,000 to him.

She had previously excised parts of stories Mr Bailey supplied to the paper, which referred to Ms du Plantier having lovers.

She said that during a conversation with Mr Bailey, he had said: "It was me."

She thought at first he meant he was a lover of Ms du Plantier, but said that he went on to say: "It was me, I did it, I killed her, I did it to resurrect my career."

Ms Callanan said that she was "flabbergasted".

Ms Callanan said she knew Mr Bailey had said his comments were a "regrettable black joke" but she considered it very serious, unusual and upsetting as Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered weeks earlier.

She was giving evidence in the 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 at Toormore on December 23, 1996.

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

Jim Duggan BL, for Mr Bailey, put to Ms Callanan that Mr Bailey was "very cross" someone had said he was a murder suspect, wanted to find out who, and had mentioned that information was worth €20,000 for a possible defamation action.

Ms Callanan said it would not be incorrect to report he was a suspect, because he was a suspect.

If Mr Bailey was saying what he said to her out of exasperation, that was another matter, she said.

She agreed what he said was very surprising. Her level of shock at what he said also arose because a person reporting on the murder for her newspaper was a suspect, and was saying to her he did it.

She denied she disliked Mr Bailey and said she had never met him.

Earlier, Ms Callanan said she was asked in winter 1996 by another journalist to give "a chance" to a reporter, named as "Eoin" Bailey (actually Ian Bailey).

She never met him but spoke to him by phone and Mr Bailey provided one or two stories but was not a regular freelancer.

All the Irish material concerning the murder published in 'The Sunday Tribune' came from Mr Bailey and a number of stories were run before she learned he was a suspect.

That was "probably the single biggest fiasco I had ever encountered, that the reporter I had on a story was in fact the suspect," she said.

The court was also told yesterday by retired Garda Martin Malone, who was based in Schull in 1996, that he got a fright when he saw Mr Bailey arriving at the murder scene about 2.20pm on December 23, 1996 saying he was working on the story for a newspaper.

He had last seen Mr Bailey in June 1996 when he accompanied his partner Jules Thomas to Schull Garda station, when she withdrew a complaint of a serious assault.

He considered it "odd" Mr Bailey had not asked him about the murder victim or relevant questions and was well dressed.

It seemed Mr Bailey was "acting the part" of a reporter at the scene.

On December 27, he nominated Mr Bailey as a suspect because he was amazed, furious and suspicious Bailey went earlier that day to the home of Alfie Lyons, Ms du Plantier's neighbour at Toormore, Schull.

Mr Bailey had been turned away from going beyond the Garda cordon on December 23 and he wondered why Mr Bailey had gone to Mr Lyons' house close to the murder scene, and whether he was trying to compromise the scene, he said.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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