Sophie TV series is ‘disrespectful’ but may help find justice, says famiy
The uncle of murdered Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan du Plantier has branded Jim Sheridan’s TV documentary series as “disrespectful” but believes renewed publicity surrounding the case will result in justice being served.
The French filmmaker was found beaten to death in her west Cork holiday home 25 years ago. Gardaí identified former journalist Ian Bailey as the chief suspect but he has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder.
The DPP has twice ruled there is not enough evidence to charge him.
Sophie’s murder remains one of Ireland’s most infamous cases and is currently the subject of two major documentaries.
Jim Sheridan’s production, Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie, is currently screening on Sky Crime. A Netflix production, Sophie: A Murder In West Cork, begins streaming this Wednesday.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s family co-operated with and feature in both productions, however they pulled their interviews from Jim Sheridan’s series, after watching advance episodes.
The family also successfully petitioned for photos of Sophie’s body from the Garda file to be removed from the series.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Sophie’s uncle, Jean Pierre Gazeau, praised Sheridan’s filmmaking abilities but questioned whether this project was best suited to his talents.
“It’s essentially a journey with the very talented filmmaker Jim Sheridan about a story of how Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas’s [Mr Bailey’s former partner] lives have been destroyed. It was very troublesome,” he said.
He said that when the family was first approached a number of years ago about participating in the project, he believed one of the purposes of the production was to try to get a confession from Bailey.
Gazeau, a physicist and mathematician who co-founded the Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, added that the family had “major problems” with aspects of Sheridan’s production.
“Absolutely, we had problems with it. The tendency of the Jim Sheridan documentary was to become pleading for Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas as victims of a garda plot. We cannot accept that.”
Last October, the High Court rejected a third attempt by the French authorities to extradite Bailey.
The Sky production also documents Sheridan’s attendance at a 2019 criminal trial in Paris, during which Bailey was found guilty “in absentia”.
Gazeau said he found footage in the documentary of the film director phoning the Englishman to give him updates on how the trial was proceeding as “disrespectful”.
“They were using it as a show. They were calling Bailey every day to inform him of what was happening at the trial.
"On the one side, there was a trial in France, though it was in absentia. It tried to make the trial a farce. It was not a farce. It wasn’t respectful, in fact it was very disrespectful.”
Gazeau said the use of images of his dead niece was particularly upsetting, and the family was pleased the filmmaker agreed to remove them.
“We cannot accept photos of Sophie’s body from the Garda file being used,” he said. “We are glad all of this was withdrawn. I respect Jim Sheridan as a filmmaker, he is very talented. But we could not just condone this.”
When contacted by the Sunday Independent, Sheridan declined to comment.
Gazeau described the Netflix series, which Sophie’s son, Pierre Louis, features in, as “OK”.
“Its content and objective is different,” he said. “The objective of the Netflix series was to show the personality of Sophie, while also explaining Bailey.”
One positive the family is taking from the renewed media interest surrounding the case is that it could finally lead to the murder being solved, he added.
“Because of all this media explosion around the case, we expect this will have a very positive effect from the family’s point of view. With these two documentaries I believe public opinion will play a role in justice being served. I believe in the court of public opinion. I hope these new documentaries create such a noise that people will analyse what happened. I believe it will create a net effect and there will be developments in the case,” he said.
Sophie’s family has “noted” recent press interviews Bailey has given, as media attention surrounding the case has reached fever pitch. In relation to some of the 64-year-old’s recent comments, Gazeau said: “He loves to be the centre of attention. It’s part of his character. He is narcissistic, he is clever.”
Gazeau added that he has never had contact with the former journalist. “I do not have any direct contact with Ian Bailey, nor do I wish to,” he said.
"For me, Ian Bailey is guilty and was condemned.
"If he comes to France he would be arrested, put in jail and have a new trial. Of course, I would love him to come to France and I invite him to do so. That is unrealistic though.”
He said Bailey had attempted to contact his family many years ago, using intermediaries, to protest his innocence.
“He made tentative attempts to contact us in the past, in phone calls through some of his friends,” he added.
“He was proposing other suspects. But there was only one garda suspect and that was him. We don’t have the truth. We don’t have justice. We want to know what happened from the mouth of Ian Bailey. It would be great if he would just tell us the truth.”