Wednesday 13 November 2019

Garda in Sophie case was 'caught on tape trying to bribe ex-soldier'

Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Joyce Fegan

Eight phone calls which allegedly detailed offers of bribery by a garda in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation to an ex-soldier are on tape, the Irish Independent understands.

The recordings are between a garda and ex-soldier Martin Graham, who claimed he was bribed with drugs and cash by gardai to befriend Ian Bailey, who was arrested twice without charge during the murder investigation.

These eight calls are on top of three others that were recorded between gardai and the so-called 'star witness' in the case, Marie Farrell. She implicated Mr Bailey in the murder but she later said that her statements had been fabricated.

The Irish Independent has also learned that the State has provided Mr Bailey with extracts of a report into Ms Farrell's evidence which has been kept secret for the past nine years.

Mr Bailey had sought the documents and recordings as part of a legal case that he is taking against the State in which he is suing for wrongful arrest for the murder of Ms Du Plantier.

The revelation that there are tapes relating to Mr Graham is the latest twist into the mystery surrounding the 1996 killing of the French filmmaker.

Mr Graham previously claimed that he received £5,000 (€6,300) from gardai to befriend Mr Bailey and elicit information from him. The ex-soldier said he was also bribed with cannabis and clothes.

His allegations were investigated and reported on by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The DPP's report was subsequently referred to in the Dail last July by independent TD Clare Daly, who said: "Gardai gave hash, cash and cigarettes to a drug-taker with criminal convictions in order to obtain incriminating evidence against Mr Bailey."

The recordings dating from 1997 are understood to contain conversations between two men and mention "a few old smokes" and "stuff", believed to refer to bribes offered to Mr Graham.

He first visited Mr Bailey at his house in Cork on March 17, 1997, after meeting him previously at a party in Skibbereen.

The recorded phone conversations were disclosed 11 days ago after Mr Bailey's legal team secured an order for discovery for any information the State held in relation to Ms Du Plantier's murder investigation.

Ms Du Plantier, a 39-year-old French film producer, was murdered at her holiday home in Schull, Co Cork, in the early hours of December 23, 1996, hours before she was due to fly home to France for Christmas.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice for questioning over the murder but no forensic or circumstantial evidence was ever produced to link the British journalist to her murder.

He is suing the State for wrongful arrest and received 12 boxes of garda documents relating to the murder investigation after his legal team made a wide-ranging order of discovery on May 10, 2013.

Mr Bailey has received 63 pages of phone transcripts of the 11 recorded phone conversations, which lasted a total of 53 minutes.

As part of the discovery, three phone recordings between witness Marie Farrell and gardai were disclosed.

Ms Farrell, a shopkeeper in Schull, told gardai she saw a "glimpse" of a man stumbling along a road late at night near where the Frenchwoman had been killed.

She described him as being 5ft 10in tall and of slim build. Mr Bailey is 6ft 2in and of heavy built. Ms Farrell said that she saw the mystery man for a "spilt second".

According to a Director of Public Prosecution analysis of the case, carried out in 2001, the road where Ms Farrell saw the mystery man "was not even indirectly en route between the scene of the murder and Bailey's house". In 2005, she admitted her evidence was made up. She claimed gardai had put her under duress to implicate Mr Bailey.

A superintendent was appointed to investigate Ms Farrell's claim and his report remains secret, nine years on.

However, it is understood that parts of the report have been disclosed to Mr Bailey under the order of discovery obtained last May.

The news of the eight recordings comes as the garda on these tapes is due to be interviewed by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission under phase three of its investigation into approximately 30 retired or serving gardai with complaints against them.

The disclosure of the transcripts comes as Martin Callinan stepped down as garda commissioner and reports of telephone conversations in and out of garda stations around the country being taped.

It is understood that lawyers investigating the murder in France have not asked to see the documents disclosed to Mr Bailey's legal team.

However, the Irish Independent understands that Ms Du Plantier's family are keen to obtain any recordings relevant to her case.

Mr Bailey did not want comment.

Irish Independent

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