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Sunday 18 February 2018

Garda told why he felt Bailey was a suspect

Officer said journalist not 'acting normally' at scene of murder

Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
Sophie Toscan Du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Ian Bailey
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The first garda to nominate Ian Bailey as a suspect for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier said he did so because of a previous assault on Bailey's partner, because he was "dressed like a professional" and was not "acting normally" when he turned up to report on the crime.

The garda was on duty at the crime scene on the morning that the French film producer's battered body was found outside her holiday in Schull in December 1996. He knew Mr Bailey, an English journalist who had moved to the area and was one of the first journalists at the scene.

According to a statement he gave to an internal inquiry into the garda's handling of the investigation, he nominated Mr Bailey as a possible suspect shortly after the murder.

His reasons were based on a previous assault by Mr Bailey on his partner, Jules Thomas, along with his own observations about the journalist's behaviour. They chiefly focused how the journalist behaved at the Du Plantier crime scene, compared to a previous incident in the area that he had also reported on.

"His visit to the scene of the murder, his departure from the murder scene without questioning us at length about the murder, compared to his behaviour at the scene in Ballybrack where a man fell over a cliff, where he acted normally at that time," the garda said in a statement.

"It appeared to me as if he were acting at the scene of Sophie's murder. He had got paler since the murder. He was dressed "very professionally" at the scene of Ms Du Plantier's murder, "where he was dressed in wellingtons at Ballybrack scene" and he wore "casual clothes".

He also noted that they "had a discussion" at Ballybrack, unlike the Du Plantier scene, where Mr Bailey apparently didn't question the gardai at length. He said the fact that Ian Bailey "gained access after making an effort" by going through a neighbour's house "also raised my suspicions".

The garda "committed this in writing and submitted it in the incident room", after which Mr Bailey became the prime suspect, according to a statement to an internal investigation of the garda's handling of the investigation by an assistant commissioner, Ray McAndrew, in 2006. The findings of that inquiry have never been disclosed.

Mr Bailey, who is suing the State for his wrongful arrest, has since claimed that gardai built a case around him to set him up for the murder.

The evidence against him included scratches on his arms and face, and supposed admissions he made which the DPP dismissed as "black humour". The key witness, Marie Farrell, has claimed she was pressured by gardai into falsely implicating Ian Bailey by placing him near the scene of the crime, while another witness, Martin Graham, claimed he was offered cash and hash for spying on Mr Bailey. A report from the DPP's office dismissed the garda's case against him as far back as 2001. The searing critique concluded that there was no evidence to warrant his prosecution.

The Du Plantier investigation has now come under intense public scrutiny since the discovery of 133 secret tape recordings relating to the case at Bandon garda station, the local headquarters. The secret tapes, in which gardai discuss the Du Plantier investigation with each other and with journalists and witnesses have yet to be released to Mr Bailey's legal team. Their content has been described as explosive by the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell.

The Government set up a commission of investigation headed by a Supreme Court judge to examine the recording of calls to and from garda stations and the garda investigation into the death of Ms du Plantier.

A schedule of people whose calls were recorded in the Du Plantier case include the names of well-known journalists and at least half a dozen detectives and gardai who were investigating the case in 1997 and 1998. However, the chief superintendent in charge of the investigation, Dermot Dwyer, is not named on the schedule of gardai whose calls were taped.

French authorities are still seeking to investigate Mr Bailey for Ms Du Plantier's murder, despite a failed attempt to extradite him. An international arrest warrant is still in force, which means Mr Bailey could be extradited from any other European country.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been asked to intervene to stop the French authorities from returning to Ireland next month to continue their investigation. In a letter to Mr Kenny, Mr Bailey and his partner said the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, granted permission to French prosecutors to return to Ireland, even though the prosecution attempt was based on a "corrupted" garda file.

Sunday Independent

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