Saturday 24 August 2019

'I’m in eye of hurricane': Ian Bailey breaks silence

Bailey uses poetry to stay 'calm in eye of storm' as he finds out court has sentenced him to 25 years

Ian Bailey (Niall Carson/PA)
Ian Bailey (Niall Carson/PA)
Surreal: Ian Bailey at his house near Schull in Co Cork shortly after the news came through that he had been convicted in the Paris trial. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Sitting in a suntrap in his home in West Cork, Ian Bailey had just received the phonecall informing him that he had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

It was surely a surreal position to be in?

"Well, that might be possibly something of an understatement," Mr Bailey replied drily.

He said he was under instruction from his "good lawyer Frank Buttimer to be making no reaction or utterances".

Filmed by a documentary maker throughout the day, he had spent the hours awaiting the verdict at the farmers' market in Bantry and had said he was "staying calm in the eye of the hurricane".

He was back home on the outskirts of Schull when the call came in.

He repeated the hurricane line when asked how he felt to be sitting in his garden as he was being sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.

He offered to give us a poem to take away, saying: "Actually this wouldn't offend Frank (Buttimer) because I'm a poet and Frank said to me I couldn't say certain things but if I put it in a poem..." he trailed off, saying it put in poetic form how he was feeling.

Reading it aloud, he recited: "There is a full force hurricane, storming, circulating, swirling, angry, aggressive and vengeful, around the outside of my head.

"Yet because of beauty and love and thoughts of you, I remain calm in the eye of the hurricane."

Another verse reads: "And in the bonfiring of my dreams, and, at that final moment, between the laughter and the tears, at the tumult of my fears,

"With thoughts of beauty and love and you, I am able to stay as calm as the stilled mill pond."

He explained that writing poetry was his way of dealing with his situation, along with "Theravada forest Buddhism and detachment meditation".

"They say it takes you 20 years in a monastery somewhere but this has been my monastery," said Mr Bailey.

He called the poem 'In the Eye' and said: "That's from the heart."

"I'm not acting calmly in a hurricane - I am," he added.

The badly beaten body of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) was found in her night clothes near the laneway leading to her holiday home by her neighbour Shirley Foster on December 23, 1996.

Mr Bailey was arrested and questioned, and in September 1997 a file was sent to the DPP, who directed that no charges be brought.

He has always denied any involvement in Sophie's killing, and claimed that the gardaí had attempted to frame him.

French authorities moved ahead with a trial following a complaint by Ms du Plantier's family in 1997. The trial began in a Paris court earlier this week.

On a stone shelf over his suntrap, he displays the rusting carcass of his old Underwood typewriter which he brought back from London, and which he had used "in another life".

"It's decomposing, a bit like myself," he said.

He brought it over in his hand luggage, and when asked by customs whether he had anything to declare, he had used Oscar Wilde's line about having 'nothing to declare but his genius'.

"It was a little bit pre-­emptive, perhaps," he said.

He declared that he was "going retro" and would be returning to "typewriters and vinyl".

However, he does have a mobile phone, which was "useful for filming people when they are filming me," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Bailey admitted he was "a bit worried about herself", speaking of his partner Jules Thomas, a Welsh-born artist, who has stood by him.

"She's a bit shook," he said, adding that she was out the back, painting.

Earlier in a visit to their house, Jules had told the Irish Independent that she was "hanging on" - but would not be making any comment and all queries must go through Mr Buttimer.

On Saturday morning, Mr Bailey told RTE in an interview: "I know there are people in this country who know that it was not me that was the culprit.

"And I know that, sitting on that, my prayer has been that the truth will come out."

He added he was continuing with life in Co Cork, business as usual, and the trial outcome was "water off a duck's back".

He said Ms du Plantier's family was told a "bundle of lies from the beginning", that somehow he was the culprit.

"They chose to believe that and they still have my sympathy."

Back in the town of Schull, there was some shock at the verdict which had come in from France.

Several people said there was no love lost between Ian Bailey and local people.

"He's nuts, just nuts. He's a nightmare," said one woman.

However, she expressed trepidation about what the verdict actually meant, saying: "They can't come over and arrest him.

"He can never leave the country or he will be arrested. So we're stuck with him."

Meanwhile, up at Sophie's holiday cottage, the windowsills have been given a cheerful coat of red paint.

Foxgloves and fuchsia are blooming in the hedgerows.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News