‘There are more than enough great local attractions… without people turning places associated with this awful crime into some kind of attraction - it is in very poor taste’
WEST Cork locals and community leaders have hit out at a surge in so-called 'murder tourism' in the wake of the two hit Sophie Toscan du Plantier TV documentaries and the intense publicity now surrounding the 1996 killing.
Local residents admitted they are appalled at the number of people now visiting sites associated with the case, driving up the laneway to view the French mother-of-one's old holiday home and, most disturbing of all, reports of some even taking photographs and selfies at the Celtic stone cross that marks the spot where her body was discovered.
Sophie was found beaten to death by the laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore, outside Schull, on December 23 1996.
She had tried to flee from her attacker but was caught and horrifically bludgeoned to death when her clothing apparently snagged on barbed wire by a gate.
No-one has ever been charged with her killing in Ireland.
The case has been thrust back into the spotlight by two major TV documentaries, one by Sky and the other by Netflix.
The Sky production is by Academy Award-nominated Irish director Jim Sheridan. Titled 'Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie,' it pieces together original evidence as well as some never-before-seen footage and unprecedented access both to Ian Bailey and Sophie's family.
The Netflix series is by Academy Award-winning producer, Simon Chinn, and the three-part series ‘Sophie: A Murder in West Cork’ was launched on June 30.
Both have generated unprecedented interest both in Ireland and overseas in the 24-year old murder.
West Cork's Senator Tim Lombard said it was perfectly understandable that residents were deeply concerned about local developments involving interest in the case.
He urged people to remember that a family is still grieving the loss of a loved one in the most appallingly brutal of circumstances.
"I fully understand how local people are upset by this," he said.
"It is obviously very, very concerning if anyone is treating the locations associated with this awful crime as some kind of attraction."
Sen Lombard urged people to be sensitive to the fact that locals remain very upset by what happened almost 25 years ago - and that the French family deserve to be treated with dignity and to have their feelings respected.
"West Cork is a wonderful place to visit and to enjoy for holidays and staycations," he said.
"There are more than enough great local attractions such as the Wild Atlantic Way coastline, walks, historical, cultural and heritage centres without people turning places associated with this awful crime into some kind of attraction - it is in very poor taste."
Sen Lombard said it was perfectly understandable that, given the barrage of publicity surrounding the du Plantier case, that people might be fascinated by it and the ongoing search for justice.
But he appealed to anyone visiting the area to act in a dignified way and to be mindful of local sensitivities.
One resident, who asked to be unnamed, said it was very upsetting to see tourists taking macabre photographs at the various places associated with the murder investigation from Kealfadda Bridge to Sophie's holiday home and, worst of all, at the Celtic stone cross inscribed with her name.
"It is terrible - there is something almost ghoulish about it," she said.
People in Schull and Toormore acknowledged they have been inundated with queries from visitors to the area over recent weeks about directions to the various sites associated with the crime and the murder investigation.
Locals are worried that Sophie's family may be upset by such visits with her old holiday home now owned by her son, Pierre-Louis, who often spends summers in west Cork with his family.
His daughter is named Sophie in memory of her grandmother.
Despite being in the headlines for 24 years, the case has been under an unprecedented spotlight since the Sky and Netflix documentaries were released last month.
The Netflix documentary alone has been viewed in 190 countries.
Over a 12 month period, the coverage on the case has included two major TV documentaries, an updated podcast series and five books published in France and Ireland/UK.
Manchester-born freelance journalist and poet, Ian Bailey (64), acknowledged that he has also been inundated with contacts, particularly over social media, in respect of the case.
Mr Bailey was twice arrested by Gardaí in respect of the Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation in 1997 and 1998.
He was released without charge on both occasions - and has vehemently protested his innocence.
Mr Bailey also maintained that sinister attempts were made to frame him for the crime.
He said he always expected to be "demonised" in some of the media coverage of the case.
"For some of them, it is all about the money - it is not about truth, it is not about justice, it is only about the money," he said.
"It is as if some people are trying to feed off my carcass while I am still alive."
Mr Bailey was convicted in absentia of the killing by a Paris court in May 2019 after a prosecution he dismissed as "a show trial" and "a mockery of justice."
Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ruled he did not have a case to answer after he was twice arrested by Gardaí.
On three occasions French bids to have Mr Bailey extradited to Paris have been rejected by Irish courts.
Mr Bailey has now written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Department of Justice/DPP seeking a fresh review of the case to confirm his innocence.