Wednesday 24 October 2018

Garda watchdog finds no evidence of corruption in probe into Sophie murder

Ian Bailey arriving at the Four Courts with his partner Jules Thomas (Right) for a Court of Appeal hearing last year. Photo: Collins
Ian Bailey arriving at the Four Courts with his partner Jules Thomas (Right) for a Court of Appeal hearing last year. Photo: Collins
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A lenthy Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) investigation has found no evidence of high-level corruption within the force in respect of the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation.

The investigation by the policing watchdog was sparked by formal complaints from English poet and journalist Ian Bailey, his partner, Welsh artist Jules Thomas, and former west Cork shopkeeper Marie Farrell.

However, Gsoc did raise "grave concerns" over changes to critical Garda reports in respect of the investigation into the killing of the French mother-of-one (39) at Toormore, outside Schull, in west Cork, on December 23, 1996.

Ms du Plantier was found beaten to death on a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home just hours before she was due to fly back to Paris for Christmas.

Gsoc focused its report concerns on what appeared to be deliberate changes to Garda documents including station records on progress into the major investigation.

The Gsoc report, which was released last night, also revealed that pages were missing from a key document in respect of the murder investigation.

This document was only ever in the possession of gardaí.

"The books are hard-backed in nature, A4 in size and the pages are retained in the book by way of a glued-in spine.

"As a result it would not be possible for pages to simply fall out of the book by accident or for them to be removed - this would have to have been a deliberate act," the report warned.

The Gsoc probe highlighted what it termed as a lack of administration and management oversight in terms of key aspects of the investigation.

Other concerns were raised in terms of potential evidence in respect of the case which appeared to have gone missing since December 1996.

However, the police said it did not find the Garda decision to question Mr Bailey to be unlawful or corruptly motivated.

"A number of factors led to Ian Bailey being identified as a suspect at an early stage of the murder inquiry...his subsequent arrest and the arrest of his partner, Jules Thomas, therefore could not, as the complainants allege, have been construed as unlawful or illegal," it ruled.

Witness

Ms Farrell was a key witness in the investigation and Gsoc found no indication she had been intimidated or coerced by gardaí into making specific statements.

Gsoc stressed that, given the extent of the inquiry and its findings, no further action will now be taken.

Last night, Mr Bailey declined to comment on the Gsoc report.

His solicitor Frank Buttimer said they were not surprised by the outcome of the Gsoc investigation and it underlined their contention that the police watchdog was "a toothless body".

Mr Buttimer said that Mr Bailey's time and co-operation with Gsoc appears to have been "a totally wasted exercise". "He is very disappointed," he said.

Mr Bailey was twice arrested by gardaí in respect of the du Plantier investigation in 1997 and 1998, but was released without charge on both occasions.

The Manchester-born journalist has consistently maintained his innocence, and claimed that attempts were made to frame him for the killing.

No one has ever been charged in respect of the killing, and the Director of Public Prosecutions has said there is now little likelihood of a prosecution.

The French want Mr Bailey to face a murder trial in Paris over the death. Mr Bailey successfully fought extradition to France six years ago.

But he stressed he believed the French would eventually attempt to try him in absentia under their Napoleonic Code.

Irish Independent

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