Thursday 14 December 2017

Key witness in Toscan du Plantier murder investigation never given 'ridiculous' assurances she wouldn't face court

Retired garda told court he had decided Ms Farrell should "put up or shut up"

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier

A key witness in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation was never given any assurances she would not have to go to court, a Garda Detective Inspector has told the High Court.

To give such assurances would be "ridiculous", he added.

Det Inspector Ted Murphy, now retired, said he had decided in May 1997, five months into the murder investigation, it was time for Ms Farrell to "put up or shut up".

He and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald met her on three occasions over 12 days from May 9th 1997.

Ian Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas
Ian Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas

After that, he said he decided it was no longer fruitful, due to absence of corroboration, to pursue her alleged sighting of a man at Kealfada Bridge near Schull in the early hours of December 23rd 1996, hours before Ms Toscan du Plantier's body was found.

Mr Murphy also denied he had said to Ian Bailey there was a "nice little cell waiting for you in Mountjoy". That never happened, he said.

Also today Detective Garda Gerard Dillon, now retired, denied gardai told Mr Bailey, after his release from detention in February 1997, he could not go home, his partner did not want to see him and there was a "lynch mob" waiting.

None of that happened, Mr Dillon said. Mr Bailey had asked to be taken to a friend's house in Skibbereen after his release from Bandon garda station on the night of February 10th 1997 and had thanked the gardai for driving him there, he said.

Just before he left the Garda car, Mr Bailey had also signed notes of an interview at the request of another Garda who had read over the notes to him, he said.

They jury was also told today by Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, the Criminal Justice Act 1984 does not require an authorisation for the taking of clothes from detained persons once an alternative set of clothing is provided.

Marie Farrell
Marie Farrell

Counsel said his clarification arose from a series of questions put by him yesterday to Sgt Des Prendergast about whether there was authorisation for the taking of clothing from Mr Bailey during his detention on February 10th 1997. Sgt Prendergast had said he could not recall the precise provisions of the law in that regard.

Today is the 41st day of the action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

The defendants deny all his claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Today, Mr Dillon said he was stationed in Galway in 1997 but was available to Garda national investigations units if he was required.

He told Ronan Munro, for Mr Bailey, he travelled to Bandon on February 9th 1997 for an interview with Mr Bailey the next day because he was directed to do so.

He had taken a note of that interview. Witness statements would be dated and their purpose was to establish the facts the witness knows.

He agreed he would not approach a witness with any "agenda" and it was important to focus on what a witness knows. If there was a friendship between a suspect and witness, he would take that "on board".

He confirmed that he understood the concept of an independent witness and a friend but would expect witnesses to be truthful and take statements at face value.

He said he would take into account if a witness had known animosity towards a suspect.

He was aware of the grounds of Mr Bailey's arrest, including alleged admissions by him and the presence of scratches on his hands and arms. His explained that his purpose was to read the information available and prepare for the interrogation of Mr Bailey.

He had visited the murder scene earlier that day and was in Bandon station from around 12.30 or 1pm. He said he was aware Jules Thomas, Mr Bailey's partner, was also in detention at the station that day. He was not involved in the decision to make either arrest.

When counsel suggested that no one asked Mr Bailey about the scratches and that indicated the arrest ground concerning scratches was "nonsense", Mr Dillon said he had not asked Mr Bailey about scratches and was not aware whether other gardai had.

He agreed Mr Bailey was asked about his conversation with journalist Eddie Cassidy on December 23rd 1996, the day the body of Ms du Plantier was found. He could not recall details concerning the time when Mr Cassidy learned the victim was a French national.

He agreed a voluntary statement from a witness, a statement made by a person not under arrest, could provide a tactical advantage at trial. He had not often asked for voluntary statements and agreed habitual criminals would not go to stations when asked.

It depended on the case whether a person would be asked to come to the station and make a statement.

He would not be in favour of inviting someone to come and make a cautioned statement, that happened "very seldom".

After Mr Bailey was released and had a consultation with his solicitor, he and Det Garda Bernie Hanley were instructed to bring him home. His recollection was Mr Bailey had told them, when in the car, he was staying in Skibbereen that night.

Counsel said Mr Bailey had complained to the Garda McAndrew investigation he was told he was not allowed go home, there was a crime scene, Ms Thomas did not want to see him and there was a "lynch mob" waiting for him.

Mr Dillon said none of that was said. When they got to Skibbereen, Mr Bailey had thanked them for the lift and the conversation in the car during the journey was "general".

Mr Dillon said he had been told Mr Bailey had complained, when he got to Skibbereen that night, he was not permitted leave the Garda car until he signed notes of an interview.

When they got to Skibbereen, Det. Hanley told Mr Bailey he had notes he wanted to read over to him, Mr Dillon said. The notes were read and Mr Bailey agreed they were correct and signed them, he said.

Det Inspector Ted Murphy said he was involved in the du Plantier murder investigation. He knew a woman, whom he later learned was Marie Farrell, had contacted the gardai saying she had information and he knew it was necessary to get corroboration for her evidence.

He confirmed he was aware Ms Farrell had described a person whom she said she saw when she was in the company of another man and he knew that evidence had to be corroborated.

He said Ms Farrell had named her companion as a Jean Barthels but gardaí had met Mr Bartels who satisfied them "beyond any reasonable doubt" he was not the person with Ms Farrell.

Mr Murphy told the court that when gardai asked Ms Farrell about this, she indicated she was compromised saying who she was with and had also said she had a violent husband and was concerned she might lose custody of her children.

No assurances were given to her she would got have to go to court, that would be "ridiculous", he said. While gardai told her they appreciated the position she was in,  she was told she must tell the truth.

He said he and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald had met Ms Farrell three times in the space of 12 days from May 9th 1997 when it was five months into the investigation and time, as far as he was concerned, for her to "put up or shut up".

She had twice asked for time and he had decided, by the third time they met her, it was no longer friuitful to pursue her signting at Kealfada Bridge. This was because they still had no corroboration of her evidence after the three meetings, he said.

The gardai still have no corroboration of that, he added.

The case continues.

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