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Monday 9 December 2019

Gardai in Du Plantier case secretly recorded journalists

Local officers kept details of 80 reporters working on murder story, says Bailey legal team

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey

MAEVE SHEEHAN

GARDAI investigating the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier kept an extensive log of journalists reporting on the story, as well as secretly recording them, according to documents released to Ian Bailey's legal team.

The index – entitled Press Interaction Record – lists more than 80 journalists and the media outlet they represented. The log was created a week after Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered on December 1996, first in handwritten form and later on a computer. Each journalist appears to have a corresponding number.

Many of the 80 journalists on the log were also secretly taped when they telephoned Bandon garda station in West Cork.

The actual recording of journalists' telephone calls began in April 1997 and continued for more than two months, the Sunday Independent has learnt. Those taped include foreign journalists, along with national and regional reporters.

It emerged last week that journalists, a large number of gardai and at least two key witnesses, are among those who feature on 133 secretly taped calls in and out of Bandon garda station.

Forty-four of the 133 taped calls are between gardai and journalists.

An index prepared by gardai shows that all of the calls were recorded between April and June, 1997 – a time of intense activity in the Du Plantier investigation. Each call is timed and dated.

Garda sources said it was highly unusual for detectives to keep an index of journalists as part of a murder inquiry and raises further questions about the role of the media in the case.

The log of journalists and their taped conversations will be closely scrutinised by Mr Bailey's legal team to support their claim that gardai used the media to implicate him in the crime.

Mr Bailey, himself a journalist, emerged as the gardai's prime suspect within days of Ms Du Plantier's murder. He is suing the State for wrongful arrest and alleges that gardai used the media to incriminate him.

At a brief hearing of his case on Friday, the High Court was told that the level of contact between journalists and gardai at the time of the murder investigation was "beyond belief".

The recordings are due to be released to Ian Bailey's legal team imminently. It is understood that in addition to the 133 tapes, gardai are also working on transcribing a second tranche of secret recordings, the details of which have yet to be released to Ian Bailey's legal team.

The index of the 133 calls shows that 18 are between Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald and Martin Graham, a local drug user who claimed he was offered cash and drugs to get information from Bailey; 36 are between Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald and Marie Farrell, a local shopkeeper who gave incriminating evidence placing Mr Bailey close to the murder scene (she later withdrew her evidence, claiming she had been pressured by gardai); 37 are of a large number of gardai in Bandon discussing the case internally. Forty-two are recordings of calls from journalists to Bandon garda station.

The Sunday Independent has also learnt that a sensitive telephone conference about the murder held between senior officers in Bandon and the force headquarters in Dublin was also recorded.

It has emerged that one staff member at Bandon garda station was solely responsible for maintaining a log of the recorded telephone conversations. According to sources, they were kept in boxes in a secure room in Bandon garda station.

The staff member responsible for storing the tapes retrieved them from storage last autumn, after a senior officer was dispatched from headquarters to Bandon to start the discovery process. Sources said current management at Bandon garda station were unaware the tape recordings existed until they were presented to senior officers.

The Oireachtas public service oversight committee is to seek advice on whether it can investigate the state's role in Ian Bailey's case.

The DPP's office had concerns about the Garda handling of the murder investigation in 2001, but it is not clear whether any action was taken on them.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered in Toormore near Schull, west Cork, in December 1996. Ian Bailey emerged as the Garda's prime suspect. He was arrested twice but was released without charge. A report by the Director of Public Prosecutions was later highly critical of the garda investigation.

Ian Bailey's legal action against the State has been adjourned to May 9. The case is due to be heard in November at the earliest.

Sunday Independent

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