Monday 18 November 2019

Garda denies recorded conversations with witness showed process to 'blacken' Ian Bailey

Garda Michael Coughlan Credit: Courtpix
Garda Michael Coughlan Credit: Courtpix

A Garda has denied that recorded conversations with Martin Graham showed there was a process to “blacken” Ian Bailey.

Garda Michael Coughlan rejected suggestions it was “inappropriate” for him to have been discussing matters such as Mr Bailey’s temper with Mr Graham in circumstances where Mr Graham was a witness in the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Ian Bailey Pic: Courts Collins
Ian Bailey Pic: Courts Collins

He was not an investigator and was merely making conversation with Mr Graham during a journey on May 22nd 1997 in a Garda patrol car, Garda Coughlan told Ronan Munro, for Mr Bailey.

As technical officer in Bandon garda station, he had been asked by Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald to record that conversation with Mr Graham, he said.

When counsel suggested there was a Garda “strategy” to get Mr Bailey charged with murder and remanded in custody, he said he had very little dealings with suspects in the case. He was unable to say what evidence there was in the investigation when he first met Mr Graham on May 22nd 1997.

Asked whether he had an open mind, he said he had.

Read more: Marie Farrell said she was harassed by Ian Bailey, court hears

Garda Coughlan was 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 Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Her body was found near Toomore. Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

The defendants deny all of Mr Bailey’s claims including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Today, Garda Coughlan said there was no official record of a Garda mobile phone being given to Marie Farrell but she had received one for a period.

Many records, including some of his own Garda notebooks, and equipment, including tape recordings, were destroyed when the station was flooded up to desk level some years back, he said. Some recordings of conversations to and from Bandon garda station in 1997 and 1998 were salvaged.

As part of his work, he would have facilitated requests from detectives for the recording of various conversations, he said.

At the request of Det Jim Fitzgerald, he had arranged for conversations with Mr Graham to be recorded, Garda Coughlan said. He would have been made aware Det Fitzgerald suspected Mr Graham was engaged with Mr Bailey in doing something to discredit the Garda investigation.

He could not remember whether there was laughter in the patrol car on May 22nd 1997 when Mr Graham was recorded asking Det Garda Fitzgerald if he had any hash.

Read more: Ian Bailey case: Marie Farrell told detective: 'You are a pervert', court hears

He recalled Det Fitzgerald asking Mr Graham whether a female acquaintance of his would give information concerning a rumour of an incident allegedly involving her and Mr Bailey.

He could not say whether or not it was appropriate for Det Fitzgerald to be telling Mr Graham that women were afraid of Mr Bailey. He presumed Det Fitzgerald must have had information in that regard.

When counsel suggested Garda Coughlan got “sucked” into a process of “blackening” Mr Bailey as he had asked Mr Graham had he seen Mr Bailey lose his temper and also referred to Mr Bailey “seething under the surface”, Garda Coughlan said he was just making conversation on the journey.  There was no prearranged conversation with Det Fitzgerald, he said.

When counsel suggested such conversation was inappropriate with a witness, he said he was sure Mr Graham had formed his own opinion of Mr Bailey at that stage.  The Martin Graham he met on May 22nd for the first time was far different in character and disposition than the person who gave evidence in court, he said.

Mr Graham was not a down and out, he appeared to be sharp enough, was probably living on his wits and “well able to paddle his own canoe”.

Caroline Leftwick, from Skibbereen, said she knew Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas in 1996 but not very well. She was interested in gardening and Mr Bailey was to have collected a bag of seed garlic from her on December 23rd 1996.

She said Mr Bailey had phoned sometime before 1pm to say he wasn’t coming, there had been a murder and he had the story. She said she had asked who was killed and Mr Bailey said it was no one she knew, a French woman.

She said Mr Bailey sounded upbeat and happy to have journalism work. 

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

Under cross-examination, she said she became involved in the case after gardai contacted her and interviewed her in May 1997. She agreed that was almost six months after the phone call from Mr Bailey. She could not remember the names of the gardai who approached her.

Jim Duggan, for Mr Bailey, said Mr Bailey had said he made two calls to her that day, one to say he would collect the garlic and a second to say he would not.

Ms Leftwick said she only took one call but he may have spoken to another member of her family. She had listened to the one pm news to get more information about the murder.

When Mr Duggan said her husband had given a time of the call from Mr Bailey between 12pm and 2pm, Mrs Leftwick said her husband was not very good at times.

Rachael O’Toole, a solicitor, said she was instructed in July 1997 by Marie Farrell to write a letter to Con Murphy, who was then Mr Bailey’s solicitor, alleging Mr Bailey had been harassing her since June 8th 1997 and had asked her to withdraw statements made by her. The letter also sought an undertaking from Mr Bailey to stay away from Ms Farrell.

Her recollection of the meeting with Ms Farrell was that Ms Farrell had said she was frightened, Ms O’Toole said.

Under cross-examination, she told Jim Duggan, for Mr Bailey, she was generally aware Ms Farrell had told this case there was no such intimidation. She no longer had the file concerning Ms Farrell and did not recall whether she received any reply from Mr Murphy. She was almost certain she had received no further instructions from Ms Farrell.

The case continues.

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