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Jules is still by his side, as 15 years of legal 'hell' ends

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Ian Bailey (centre) and his partner Jules Thomas and solicitor Frank Buttimer (right) speak to the media outside the Supreme Court in Dublin after he won his challenge against his extradition to France. Photo: PA

Ian Bailey (centre) and his partner Jules Thomas and solicitor Frank Buttimer (right) speak to the media outside the Supreme Court in Dublin after he won his challenge against his extradition to France. Photo: PA

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IAN Bailey's first public reaction to his Supreme Court extradition victory was as surprising as it was moving.

Mr Bailey (54) -- facing a scrum of reporters and photographers outside the Four Courts -- insisted on paying an emotional tribute to the woman who has stood beside him throughout all the drama and controversy of the past 15 years.

Welsh artist Jules Thomas stood beside the former freelance journalist as he insisted -- before he commented on his Supreme Court appeal victory -- on saying how much her support had meant to him.

Immaculately dressed in a blazer, white shirt and paisley tie, Mr Bailey looked tired and drawn from his ordeal but relieved that he does not face extradition to France for a crime he has insisted he did not commit.

"I want to stress my appreciation to Jules (Thomas) who has stood by me through thick and thin and to our family, friends and supporters in west Cork and further afield," he said.

Mr Bailey was flanked by Ms Thomas, his partner of almost 20 years, and his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, as he spoke.

Mr Bailey's gratitude for his partner's staunch support was tangible.

"This has obviously been a very trying time for me (and Jules) -- I would like to thank the Supreme Court for their considered and prompt determination of this matter," he said.

"On a personal note I am obviously relieved that this part of the proceedings is over -- there are many stages and matters still to be dealt with and for that reason I won't be making any further statement."

Ms Thomas was by Mr Bailey's side throughout his hour in the Four Courts yesterday.

Similarly, she was by his side throughout his dramatic two-week defamation action against eight Irish and British newspapers in December 2003 over their coverage of the murder.

She was likewise by his side when he appealed some of those rulings to the High Court four years ago.

Wearing a navy blue suit, she didn't comment to reporters yesterday -- and studiously ignored the assembled cameras.

For almost two decades Ms Thomas has been with the Manchester-born reporter, poet, gardener and now law student.

She has stood by him through both of his arrests by gardai in 1997 and 1998 in connection with the du Plantier investigation and even through a domestic violence incident.

They first met when Mr Bailey was briefly working at a fish factory in Schull in 1991/92 -- and, after he later rented an apartment from her, romance blossomed between them.

The couple still live in a farmhouse outside Schull -- and regularly attend a stall at the local farmer's market selling organic produce.

Both share a love of gardening.

Ms Thomas is a fixture at west Cork arts events -- and her work is featured at a number of tourist centres and galleries.

The couple also share a love of music and have attended festivals each summer on Cape Clear island.

Mr Bailey acknowledged to reporters that they have been through "hell" over the lengthy proceedings.

"It has been very hard, very hard -- on Jules in particular. You wouldn't be able to believe the hell we have been put through by this awfulness. We are now going to talk about where we go from here," he said.

Mr Bailey declined to say anything to the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

"I do not at this stage, no."

Ms Thomas did not comment, though she has repeatedly warned the French authorities that they have been chasing "the wrong person".

Irish Independent