Ian Bailey: Evidence concludes in long-running civil action against Garda Commissioner and State
Evidence has concluded in the long-running civil action by Ian Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
The body of Ms Toscan du Pkanteir was found near her holiday home at Toomore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996. Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in her murder.
After hearing from some 90 witnesses, the case was adjourned on its 59th day today to resume on March 24th when the jury will hear closing speeches from both sides, to be followed by a charge from Mr Justice John Hedigan.
The judge told the jury that, when retiring to consider their verdict at the conclusion of the judge’s charge, they would then be given an issue paper which would contain a number of questions which would each require a Yes or No answer.
The case opened last November and the jury heard evidence from 21 witnesses for Mr Bailey. The State called about 70 witnesses, some of whose statements were agreed and read to the jury.
Mr Bailey has made a series of claims over the conduct of the du Plantier murder investigation, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy to manufacture evidence. The defendants deny all of the claims.
Earlier, Det Chief Supt Dominic Hayes, attached to an investigation unit in Garda HQ in 1996, said he went to west Cork from December 28th 1996 and assisted with the du Plantier murder investigation. He was involved with that investigation for a few days and was also working on other investigations.
He was also involved with Det Garda Bernie Hanley in interviewing Mr Bailey during his second arrest on January 27th 1998. He had signed the notes of that interview after it was completed.
Supt Hayes said he was also involved in a second interview with Mr Bailey that day.
Nothing untoward or unusual happened in either interview, he said. Mr Bailey was asked questions and was “forthcoming” with answers and also had access to his solicitor during his detention, Supt Hayes said.
He has also compiled a questionnaire with Saffron Thomas in Dublin in early 1998 when she was at college in the city. He was satisfied he never met Marie Farrell but he may have driven Chief Supt Ted Murphy to a meeting with her.
He also interviewed Jules Thomas and Fenella Thomas in September 2000. He agreed Fenella was a few days short of her 18th birthday when he and Det Garda Bernie Hanley interviewed her on September 21st 2000. He was also involved in interviewing her mother the following day. Nothing untoward happened during either interview, he said.
He said he had asked Jules Thomas to sign each page of his notes of the interview and she did so. He performed no other significant duty in the investigation.
Under cross-examination by Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, it was put to him Jules Thomas had said gardai had not noted down what she said at all during the interviews and she was very frightened.
Supt Hayes said Ms Thomas did not appear to be frightened, his notes reflected what she said, they were read over to her and she signed them. Her signature appeared five times on the document. She was no way hostile and had answered the questions put to her. She did not appear angry or hassled and there was no complaint made to him about his conduct, he said.
Ms Thomas appeared calm, he said. It would not be “particularly nice for any lady to be in custody” but this was her second time to be detained and she did not appear frightened to him.
Michael McSweeney, who runs a photographic agency in Cork, said Ian Bailey told him on December 23rd 1996 he had photos of the scene of the murder which were taken before 11am that day.
Mr McSweeney said the photos were of whitethorn or blackthorn hedges. Under cross-examination, he agreed he had in a previous statement said the photos also featured gardai at the scene and said he considered that reference to gardai was “the truth”. He said the photos were not of a quality to be usable by media.
During his conversation with Mr Bailey concerning the nature of the photos, he said Mr Bailey’s answers were “very vague” and Mr Bailey later said it was his partner Jules Thomas who had taken the photos.
After Mr Bailey was arrested on February 10th 1997 in connection with the murder and released without charge, Mr McSweeney said he had gone to Mr Bailey’s home with other journalists on February 11th.
He was “quite taken aback” when, during conversation, Mr Bailey told him he, Mr McSweeney, had phoned him (Mr Bailey) about it. It seemed to him Mr Bailey was alleging it was Mr McSweeney who had phoned him on December 23rd 1996, not vice versa, and he was upset about that.
Mr Bailey appeared “quite excited” and was asking him (Mr McSweeney) for advice how to deal with reporters, he added.
Under cross-examination, Tom Creed SC put to Mr McSweeney he had, in his previous statement, described Mr Bailey as “quite jumpy and agitated” on February 11th 1997.
When counsel put to him it was unusual for persons who are arrested and released without charge to be named in the media, Mr McSweeney agreed but said he believed Mr Bailey had “identified himself”. Mr Bailey had “outed himself” as a suspect and had also written articles about the murder, he said.
Catherine Keane, executive officer in the Office of the General Registrar of Births, was asked questions arising from evidence of Marie Farrell that the man who was with her on the night of December 22/23rd 1996 was John Reilly from Longford. Ms Farrell also said her mother had told her Mr Reilly was deceased.
Ms Keane said she had received from gardai a list of 17 names all in the name of John Reilly or John O’Reilly or variations of that name. She could find no corresponding birth or adoption details for any of those men in Co Longford.
In concluding the State defence, David Lennon BL read a number of witness statements which were agreed between the parties.
In one statement, Donal O’Donovan, of the housing section of Cork County Council, said Marie Farrell and her husband received no preferential treatment whatsoever when they applied for and later secured council housing.
In another statement, Denis Quinlan, owner of the Courtyard Pub in Schull, said he had not received a sum of €400 from a Detective Garda to buy drink for persons who gave evidence against Mr Bailey in the libel actions brought by him. That claim was totally false, he said.
Det Inspector Michael Moore, a Garda documents expert, said he had examined statements of Marie Farrell and memos of interviews with her on dates n 1996 and 1997. He had concluded there were no suspicious alterations that could not be explained by the author