The family of murdered French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier gathered in a Paris court yesterday for the start of a week-long trial which they hope will finally put the 22-year-old case to rest.
The case against Manchester-born journalist Ian Bailey (62), who will not be present for the trial, was taken by eight of Ms du Plantier's immediate and extended family, including her son and her elderly parents.
Mr Bailey has consistently denied the charges, and has not been prosecuted in Ireland.
On the first day of trial, presiding judge Frederique Aline - the president of the court - read out the details of the brutal killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier who was found dead on December 23, 1996.
The court heard she suffered multiple blows to the head and body with a blunt object, and that a breeze block was lying close to her body covered in bloodstains.
The attack had been so violent that blood stains were found spattered up to a metre square around the body, and she was wearing only long johns, a T-shirt and walking boots without socks.
Journalist Ian Bailey is on trial in Paris ‘in absentia’ accused of the murder of filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Judge Aline listed the many twists and turns of the case has taken over the years, including the testimony of Marie Farrell - a local woman who initially claimed she had seen Bailey walking towards the victim's home on the night of the killing, a claim she later retracted.
The court heard how in the days after the killing, several witnesses said Bailey had scratches on his hands and forearms, which he claimed he had acquired while cutting down a Christmas tree.
The first witness was private investigator Michel Larousse, who was tasked with giving evidence on the victim's personality after conducting interviews with her friends and family.
He said Ms Toscan du Plantier was "very independent", adding "at times she wanted to be with people and there were moments she wanted to be on her own".
Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Mr Larousse said Ms Toscan du Plantier "wasn't afraid of much", even in situations that carried a risk.
He gave the example of the time she had allowed a homeless person to sleep in her car, and the time she had invited another homeless man to have a meal with her.
The court also heard evidence from French police officer Damien Roehrig, who made two trips to Schull in 2008 and 2011 to interview potential witnesses.
He said: "The local gardaí didn't have experience leading an investigation of this order.
"Early evidence was wasted and it wasn't organised as it would have been if it had been led by police more used to this type of investigation.
"The people capable of leading this type of investigation arrived much later."
He added that the gardaí had been under a lot of pressure to crack the case.
Mr Roehrig said he had spoken to one witness who claimed that when he had asked Mr Bailey if he had killed the victim, Mr Bailey had replied: "Yes, of course - it was to advance my career as a journalist."
Another allegedly claimed Bailey had told him: "I did it, I did it. I went too far."
The police officer described a conversation he had had with a neighbour who claimed Bailey had described cracking the victim's skull with a rock.