Monday 19 August 2019

Ian Bailey faces new extradition bid after murder conviction

French judges find him guilty of killing Sophie

Sophie's son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud
Sophie's son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud
Happier times: Sophie Toscan du Plantier at home in Combret, a village in the south of France
Sophie Toscan du Plantier's home in West Cork

Sarah Collins in Paris

Journalist Ian Bailey faces the prospect of a new arrest warrant seeking his extradition after being found guilty by a French criminal court of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996.

A panel of three judges in the Parisian Cour d'Assises handed down a 25-year custodial sentence, with a demand for compensation to come.

The judges also recommended a new warrant be issued for Mr Bailey's arrest - although Irish courts have rejected two previous extradition warrants from the French authorities, the latest in 2017.

Ms du Plantier's family said they were very happy with the verdict.

Speaking outside court, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, Sophie's son, said: "The judgement is very clear - with all the elements of proof, Ian Bailey is a murderer and he killed my mother 22 years ago.

"It's a victory for justice. It's a victory for the truth and now Ireland has to extradite Ian Bailey and we will put on all the pressure to get justice done.

"Justice has been said and now justice has to be done - in France or in Ireland - but today everybody must understand that Ian Bailey is a murderer."

He continued: "I have a real emotion for mother and the truth is very important for us, for her and all the people who lived around this monster."

Sophie's best friend Agnes Thomas said: "We are very happy. This day has finally come and the truth has been said."

Mr Bailey (62) has consistently denied the charges, and has taken libel and defamation cases against the media and the Garda in the past to try to clear his name.

He was tried in absentia during the five-day case, but if he is arrested on the back of the new warrant, then yesterday's verdict would be declared "null and void" and the same court will be called on to try him again in person.

Public prosecutor Jean-Pierre Bonthoux said Mr Bailey's absence - and that of his legal team - was a form of "cowardice", and criticised him for using the media to defend himself.

"He's not here but he really is here," Mr Bonthoux told the court. "He responds via the media, via his previous lawyer, his current lawyer, his future lawyers, his future ex-lawyers," he said. "It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic."

The gruesome details of the murder were rehashed several times over the week, a process that visibly upset the family of the 39-year-old French filmmaker. Her father bowed his head when the judge went through the physical evidence again yesterday, and her son cradled his head in his hands as he listened.

The case was taken by Ms du Plantier's family, through the French courts, after the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to pursue a case against Mr Bailey due to a lack of evidence.

Ms du Plantier's son, Pierre-Louis Baudey Vignaud (38), said some of the original press reports on the case had been "insulting" to her memory.

After deliberating for five hours, presiding judge Frédérique Aline returned the verdict, recapping the details of what she described as an "extremely violent" murder.

Police believe Ms du Plantier was beaten to death with a stone or breeze block, near her holiday home in Toormore, Co Cork, on the night of December 22-23, 1996.

Her body was found at the side of a small road leading to up to her house and police believe she had ended up there after fleeing an attacker who had called to her home late that night.

Judge Aline said that, due to the violence of the crime, it was "undeniable" that Ms du Plantier had been killed with "homicidal intent".

Irish Independent

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