Friday 23 March 2018

Elite team of French detectives due in Ireland to conclude Paris-based du Plantier investigation

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Ralph Riegel and Dearbhail McDonald

AN ELITE team of French detectives are due in Ireland “within days” to conclude a Paris-based investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39).

The team will arrive in Ireland after the Government sanctioned the visit which had been delayed for two years because of Ian Bailey’s High Court civil action against the State.

Mr Bailey (58), who has consistently protested his innocence in relation to the matter, claimed he was wrongfully arrested by Gardai as part of their 19 year murder probe.

Following protests from the legal team representing the Manchester-born freelance journalist, the Department of Justice suspended all co-operation with the French authorities over their probe in 2013.

The suspension was lifted last summer.

The Paris detectives plan to conduct around 15 further interviews in Ireland on the instructions of Magistrate Patrick Gachon who has been leading a seven year French probe into Sophie murder on December 23 1996.

The mother of one was found battered to death on a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork two days before Christmas.

No-one has ever been charged with her brutal killing.

Magistrate Gachon required the permission of the Irish authorities to allow his team to conduct a final round of interviews in Dublin and west Cork.

Sophie’s son, Pierre-Louis Bauday (34), has vowed he will never rest until a prosecution takes place over his mother’s death.

He was just five when the socialite and film executive was battered to death after apparently trying to flee from an intruder at her holiday home.

Mr Bauday, who called his first daughter ‘Sophie’ in honour of his mother, now owns the holiday cottage Sophie once described as her “dream home.”

Mr Bailey has repeatedly predicted that the French will attempt to try him in absentia.

He successfully fought a French attempt to have him extradited with the Supreme Court unanimously throwing out the European Arrest Warrant application three years ago.

The visit to Ireland by the elite Paris detective unit is the final element of France’s painstaking seven year probe.

It was launched following repeated pleas from Sophie’s family after they learned no prosecution was contemplated in Ireland.

The investigation has included the exhumation of Sophie’s body, a battery of new DNA and forensic tests as well as the re-interviewing in Ireland of all the witnesses in the original garda probe.

French detectives have already made three visits to Ireland one of which was a major two week visit in 2011.

Mr Gachon now wants his detective team to finish their Irish interviews so he can conclude his final report.

He will then make a recommendation about a French trial process in January.

That will go to the Court d’Accusation which will then have to ratify any trial in absentia before the Court d’Assizes in Paris.

Alain Spilliaert, solicitor for Sophie’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, said the indications are that the Gachon report into Sophie's killing will run to well over 100 pages.

The head of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team or ‘cold case’ unit, Det Supt Christy Mangan, met in 2012 with representatives of Sophie’s family at a private briefing in Dublin.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice by gardai and released without charge on both occasions in 1997 and 1998.

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