Sunday 22 April 2018

Ian Bailey: Detective garda denies he was 'scratching around' for evidence on Bailey as gardai had 'none'

Ian Bailey arriving at the High Court. Photo: Courtpix
Ian Bailey arriving at the High Court. Photo: Courtpix
Ian Bailey outside court. Photo: Courtpix
Ian Bailey
Jim Fitzgerald pictured leaving the Four Courts Newsdesk Newsdesk

A Detective Garda has denied he was “prejudiced” against Ian Bailey and so convinced Mr Bailey had murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier he was “scratching around” for any evidence against him when gardai had “none”.

Jim Fitzgerald, now retired, denied he was “at the forefront” of efforts by gardai to ensure Mr Bailey was charged with the murder.

He said he was investigating a “very serious” murder and there was reasonable grounds for gardai to suspect and arrest Mr Bailey. He did not personally know Mr Bailey at the time of his first arrest and it was wrong to suggest he was convinced of his guilt.

Asked would it be “inconceivable”that gardai might have got it “spectacularly wrong”, he said Mr Bailey was arrested because there was a reasonable suspicion on several grounds for arrest and gardai investigate and operate on facts and evidence, whatever evidence is available to them.

Former garda Jim Fitzgerald. Photo: Courts Collins
Former garda Jim Fitzgerald. Photo: Courts Collins
Jim Fitzgerald pictured leaving the Four Courts

Read more here: Bailey witness called garda 'a pervert' in taped telephone call 

He agreed things have gone wrong in cases. He agreed he was aware of a previous situation relating to gardai in Donegal. He was not involved in the Donegal matter and it was “entirely unfair” to bring that in.

He believed gardai would have been negligent if they had not arrested Mr Bailey.

He rejected a suggestion by Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, that Martin Graham, a witness in the du Plantier investigation, had “played” gardai from the start.

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

He believed Mr Graham later became “greedy” and said he had lost confidence in Mr Graham by May 1997 when gardai and Mr Graham began recording each other’s conversations.

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey

He denied another suggestion that gardai had terrified Marie Farrell to such an extent that she had “turned” a man whom she said she saw on the road near Schull in the early hours of December 23rd 1996 into Mr Bailey.

He denied he had “concocted” memos to build a case against Mr Bailey to forward to the DPP.

Read more here: Bailey garda explains 'chopped' statement 

Mr Creed suggested he was convinced “from your prejudiced position” that Mr Bailey was guilty of the murder and tape recordings were “full” of Mr Fitzgerald’s “unguarded remarks” about this “bollocks” Bailey.

Mr Fitzgerald disagreed and said he had nominated a French man as a suspect after being told of an acrimonious relationship between that man and the deceased. Gardai went to France and interviewed the man, he added.

The cross-examination of Mr Fitzgerald concluded today 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 Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996.

Read more here: Garda quizzed on relationship with Ian Bailey witness  

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

At the outset of the 51st day of the case today, Mr Justice John Hedigan said he had discussed with the jury foreman the difficulties being experienced by the jury due to the length of time the case was taking.

The judge told the jury he was highly sympathetic to their position and was doing his best to mitigate their difficulties but was limited in what he could do. The jury would be given an indication next Tuesday of the anticipated duration of the case, he said.

Also today, Garda Anthony Finn said he had apologised to a son of Marie Farrell after he jokingly called him a “bollocks” in 2005 due to having mistaken him on a street in Schull for a grandson of Garda Finn’s landlady. He had also apologised to Ms Farrell.

Read more here: Garda denies he asked Bailey witness for sex 

He saw Ms Farrell’s son from behind and made the remark before realising he was not the other boy, he said.

He had dealt professionally with Ms Farrell at all times, he said. He had had no involvement in her dealings concerning the du Plantier murder investigation.

Ms Farrell had made a complaint about him but she later withdrew that, he said. In the “interests of fairness”, he had asked that an independent body should investigate the complaint for him.

Earlier, under cross-examination, Mr Fitzgerald said he had given Mr Graham a pouch of loose Duma tobacco on May 22nd 1997 when Mr Graham was travelling with gardai in a Garda car. When Mr Creed suggested that was “nonsense”, Mr Fitzgerald reiterated he bought the tobacco in a shop and gave it to Mr Graham.

Read more here: Garda told colleague that witness was '100pc' sure she saw Bailey near crime scene hours before Sophie's body was discovered, court hears 

He agreed he had lost confidence in Mr Graham by this time. He also agreed he knew the conversation in the Garda car was being taped.

He agreed there was no unguarded remarks during that conversation. “And there’s no swear words either,” he added.  He had told Mr Graham eleven times during that conversation all gardai wanted was the truth.

Mr Fitzgerald said his request during that recorded conversation that Mr Graham make a third statement was not genuine because he had lost confidence in him. Mr Graham was trying to set him up.

When Mr Creed suggested the position at the stage was gardai and Mr Graham were each lying to the other, Mr Fitzgerald said he wanted to see what Mr Graham was at.  He believed there was a conspiracy and his own intention was to confuse that conspiracy. His own request to Mr Graham for a third statement was part of “stringing” him along, he said.

Read more here: Garda denies giving cannabis 'to loosen tongue of Bailey' 

He agreed he was unaware of another conversation of May 23rd 1996 being taped in which Mr Fitzgerald told another Garda that all Mr Graham wanted was to be given “a slab of you know what”.

Mr Creed said Mr Graham had contacted the newspapers to sell a story in which he alleged gardai had given him cannabis.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was not in Schull on May 13th 1997, the day Mr Graham alleged he was given cannabis by gardai. He agreed the car featured in a photograph of Mr Graham on a street in Schull holding a plastic bag containing what he alleges was cannabis was a Garda car.

He said Mr Graham would sometimes during journeys in the Garda car ask gardai to go to a particular area and Mr Graham sometimes got out of the car on those occasions.

Read more here: Bailey's black-humoured 'confession' was not so funny 

When counsel suggested, had he given it any thought,  “you would think he was playing you”. Mr Fitzgerald said Mr Graham “offered his services and we took him up on it”.

When he said he urged Nr Graham always to tell the truth, Mr Creed said: “The truth as you wanted it because you were scratching around at this stage for any piece of evidence against Mr Bailey.”

“I call it an ongoing investigation into a very serious murder,” he said.

Asked about Mr Bailey’s evidence that his remark that he killed Ms du Plantier to further his journalistic career was a regrettable black joke, Mr Fitzgerald said he understood the concept of black humour but with such a serious murder “and the death that woman got” he did not think anyone would engage in that.

Asked about a remark by himself during a recorded phone call that “we might get another murder out of it”, he said that there was a big difference between  talking about a murder and making an admission about it.

The case resumes next Tuesday.

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