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Sunday 19 May 2019

Watchdog expresses 'grave concern' after potentially significant police records on the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier went missing

Undated family handout file photo of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Undated family handout file photo of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Ian Bailey leaving the Court of Appeal in Dublin on 26/07/17. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A watchdog has expressed "grave concern" after potentially significant police records on the murder of a French filmmaker in Ireland went missing.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was beaten to death on a freezing night outside her holiday home on a remote west Cork hillside on December 23 1996.

Ian Bailey, a former freelance journalist originally from the Manchester area, was arrested twice over the 39-year-old's murder.

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) said: "It is GSOC's view, formed after an extensive investigation, that while there was evidence of a lack of administration and management of aspects of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, there was no evidence of the high-level corruption by gardai alleged by the complainants Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas and Marie Farrell.

"A number of factors led to Ian Bailey being identified as a suspect at an early stage of the murder inquiry.

"His subsequent arrest and the arrest of his partner, Jules Thomas, therefore could not, as the complainants allege, have been construed as unlawful or illegal."

Irish courts have repeatedly refused to extradite the former journalist to France for questioning over the murder.

Mr Bailey denies any involvement in the killing near Schull in west Cork.

The Commission's investigation reviewed a "jobs book" compiled by the police on the murder investigation.

It said: "The missing pages from the jobs book when Ian Bailey was identified as a suspect are of grave concern to GSOC."

These books form a complete record of all activity undertaken in respect of a major or critical incident (or investigation) along with the rationale for the decisions made.

"This concern is compounded further by the fact that the specific pages missing are from an area of the book when Ian Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect in the murder by gardai, and as such, they are potentially very significant.

"The significant amount of missing original garda documentation, witness statements, suspect files and physical exhibits in the garda murder investigation suggest to GSOC that there was a lack of administration and management of the incident room (even when viewed through the lens of the time) as opposed to clear evidence of malpractice or corruption."

It added: "The lack of forensic material obtained from the scene, particularly given the precise nature of the murder and the state in which the body of Madame Toscan Du Plantier was discovered, is also of concern to GSOC."

The report found no evidence a key witness, Marie Farrell, was coerced or intimidated into making false statements against Mr Bailey.

It said the review of telephone call recordings provided to GSOC during this investigation indicated that Ms Farrell had not been under pressure in her interactions with a detective garda to provide accounts, although the relationship appeared inappropriate at times.

The Commission was not able to substantiate other serious allegations that a witness had been provided with illegal drugs by gardai, though the telephone calls which have been reviewed noted that drugs were mentioned by the witness himself.

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