Monday 16 December 2019

A joint, a drink and 'critical self analysis' revealed in Bailey diaries

Former Sophie murder-accused gives final evidence against State

Court actions: Jules Thomas with her partner Ian Bailey outside the High Court in Dublin last Thursday.
Court actions: Jules Thomas with her partner Ian Bailey outside the High Court in Dublin last Thursday.
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

IAN Bailey studied the entry from his old diary: "Back in print, hip hip hurray."

It was dated June 1997, six months after the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the French film producer, and five months after he had been arrested for the crime, and days after he had been interviewed by a journalist from the Sunday Independent.

"The thing is, I can't tie it up to anything," said Ian Bailey. Was it his handwriting, the barrister, Luan O'Braonain, wanted to know.

"Yes I think it could be my writing. I am not absolutely 100pc sure it is, because there is something about it that is strange."

Mr O'Braonain put it another way: "This is probably your writing," he suggested.

"How about possibly?" said Mr Bailey.

Mr O'Braonain pressed on until Mr Bailey said: "If I was saying it was probably my writing, that's not saying it is my writing. If I was to say that, how would that go down with you? If you are happy with probably, I'm happy with probably too."

"You are not here to please," said Mr Justice John Hedigan, the High Court judge presiding over the case of Ian Bailey versus the State.

It was the third week of his legal action for damages for alleged wrongful arrest and conspiracy in relation to the Garda investigation of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. The French film producer was beaten to death outside her home in Schull two days before Christmas in 1996.

The State denies all his claims and says he was lawfully arrested for the crime.

Last Wednesday, Luan O'Braonain, barrister for the State, honed in on Ian Bailey's diary. "'Back in print, hip hip hurray', exemplifies the extent to which you enjoyed the attention," he said, putting it to Mr Bailey that he knew an article about him was going to be published, and that he would be back "in print."

Mr Bailey rejected that interpretation. No one could enjoy being falsely accused, he said. An English journalist who moved to Schull in 1991, Mr Bailey had reported on the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier for various newspapers in the weeks after her death. He was twice arrested and he claims his life had been "destroyed" as a result of the attention placed on him by the garda investigation.

His cross examination over eight full days covered almost every aspect of his life, from his move from the UK to Ireland for a "different" life, to his success or otherwise as a journalist, to the two assaults he inflicted on his partner, Jules Thomas.

He was questioned about scratches on his arms and the "admissions" he had made to a local, a man he met in a pub, and to another journalist. He was questioned about allegedly telling a photographer he was at the crime scene earlier than he told gardai and of details of the dead woman's injuries which he had reported but which Mr O'Braonain said were known to few.

Mr Bailey attributed the scratches to cutting Christmas trees and killing turkeys, while the "alleged informal admissions" were "unwise" attempts at "dry or black humour." That he was at the crime scene earlier than he'd said was wrong, while details of Ms du Plantier's death were "commonly circulating".

But Mr O'Braonain said they provided reasonable grounds to suspect him of involvement in the French woman's murder.

On Thursday, Mr O'Braonain focused on his diaries. Mr Bailey had claimed he had been "robbed" of his joie de vivre since the events of 1996, Mr O'Braonain said, but he contended that his diary entries suggested otherwise.

He read out entries about smoking "J's" or joints and not wanting to be seen as a "foolish bowsie". "You wrote that you found it difficult to do anything with writing because you were unknown and unpublished," Mr O'Braonain said. He read another entry: "I've f***ed up more than anybody would be expected. Why, why, why?"

"When one looks at your writing there was an absence of joie de vivre," he said.

Mr Bailey said his writings were "critical self analysis" to make him a better person. It was a cathartic process, something he'd always done. The marijuana helped his writing.

Positive things not mentioned in his diary, included gardening and cooking good food, he said. It was "a great source of joy, to see the shoots coming up" of his Robinson's giant onions.

Re-examined by his own barrister, Martin Giblin, Mr Bailey said he knew he had a problem with alcohol. In 2001, the year in which the court heard he had assaulted his partner, Jules, he went to the AA. "I did 120 meetings in 90 days and then Jules came back to me and we've been together ever since," he said.

When Ian Bailey stepped out of the witness box on Thursday afternoon Jules Thomas stepped in.

She began by confirming that she was arrested on February 10, 1997 for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier but said she was never questioned on how she "did this murder". The court heard that she is taking separate legal proceedings against the State, which will begin once Mr Bailey's action is finished.

Ms Thomas, 65, described her background. Her father was a psychiatrist and her mother an artist. She was raised in Cardiff and sent to boarding school in Devon. She said she picked up a pencil at a very young age and never really stopped since. She studied design in London, worked for a firm of architects in London before moving to Ireland in the early 1970s with her then partner.

They stayed first in Glenbeigh in Kerry, and later became caretakers of a house in Schull. One day their car stopped outside the Prairie, the cottage that was to become her home. They had run out of petrol and called on a local farmer who drove them to get fuel.

"We got the petrol and he said 'I know the man who owns that house and he might want to let it'," she said. They met a lot of like-minded people, she said, people who were "getting out of London because the houses were cheap: Having said that, there was no plumbing."

The case resumes at the High Court on Tuesday.

What Ian Bailey said

"I mistakenly thought I had a reasonable short time [sic] base in Arklow but this came to an abrupt conclusion on Saturday last when I returned and found my host had packed my bags for me. I feel somewhat betrayed":

An entry in Ian Bailey's diary. Highlighted by the State to suggest life hadn't always been happy.

"However unhappy I might have been before has no bearing on the misery I've suffered directly as a result of this false accusation": Mr Bailey responding to the suggestion that his life was not always happy before the date of the murder.

"There is no record of a garda putting his leg on the table and trying to stick his crotch in my face as he far as he could get it": Mr Bailey on his arrest for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

"I used to enjoy music lessons. Some people used to say my bodhran playing was terrible and some used to like it." Mr Bailey on what he once enjoyed.

"As I explained, I was unwisely trying to make light of the situation. I have a dry, dry sense of humour. They were not admissions but examples of my dry or black humour": Mr Bailey denying claims he admitted his involvement to people.

"Members of the legal profession used to drive down and road test it": Mr Bailey, who wrote about joints in his diary, on how marijuana was not uncommon in West Cork.

"I indulged in a lot of critical self analysis but I also wrote about other things. It is just a method of creativity": Mr Bailey on the writings in his diary.

"It's a line from Behan's famous song, isn't it? The 'Auld Triangle', that's where I first heard it": Mr Bailey on the term "bowsie". In his diary he said he didn't want to be seen as a "foolish bowsie".

"Certainly in the early days, I found, I realised that I was using alcohol to try and blot out the awful reality. As we know, that's no good. It doesn't work. Anyway, I have addressed the issue": Mr Bailey on his drinking.

"I don't think anybody could be put through what we've been put through and not be affected by it." Mr Bailey on his life since the date of the murder.

Sunday Independent

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