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Ian Bailey says he’s ‘delighted’ as gardaí launch cold-case review into 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

I have always said that If I can co-operate in any meaningful way with anything to do with this case, I am happy to co-operate.”

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Former chief suspect Ian Bailey (Photo: Niall Carson) and Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Photo: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP via Getty Images)

Former chief suspect Ian Bailey (Photo: Niall Carson) and Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Photo: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP via Getty Images)

Former chief suspect Ian Bailey (Photo: Niall Carson) and Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Photo: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP via Getty Images)

Gardaí have ordered a cold-case review into the Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) murder in West Cork over 25 years ago.

The decision came after calls for such a review of the original garda file and potentially new information which was submitted to gardaí over recent weeks and months.

These appeals were made by justice campaigners for the French mother of one and Ian Bailey (64) who has been the focus of repeated extradition requests by the French authorities.

French filmmaker Ms Toscan du Plantier was battered to death with a stone and breeze block on the night of December 22, 1996, at her holiday home in Toormore, near Schull in Co Cork.

The garda cold-case unit carried out a detailed "scoping exercise" last year into the killing of the mother of one last year.

A preliminary review by cold-case investigators was completed in January.

The report – which was to recommend whether a full garda review of the case – was then submitted to Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who was in charge of special crime operations in An Garda Síochána before his retirement on Tuesday.

It has now been announced that the murder case will be reviewed by specialist officers after a decision was finally made last night.

“Following a review by Assistant Commissioner, Organised and Serious Crime, the Garda Serious Crime Review Team will now conduct a full review of this case,” a garda spokesman said today.

“On the finalisation of this review, the Serious Crime Review Team will provide recommendations to the local investigation team.

The Indo Daily: Sophie Toscan du Plantier: 25 years on from Ireland's most notorious unsolved murder

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“An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to anyone who may have any information on this crime to contact the Garda investigation team at Bantry Garda Station (on) 027 20860 or the Garda Confidential Line (on) 1800 666 111,” he added.

Gardaí refused to comment on the specifics of the new investigation.

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Reacting this evening, Ian Bailey said he was “delighted” at the announcement.

“It’s what I asked for and called for over 12 months ago when I wrote to Commissioner Drew Harris on the first occasion and I clearly said that if I could any way materially assist,” Mr Bailey said.

“I asked Commissioner Harris, as a clean pair of hands to review this case and offered my assistance in any way that I could.

“I am therefore clearly delighted to hear that my request has been acceded to.

“I have always said that If I can co-operate in any meaningful way with anything to do with this case, I am happy to co-operate.”

It is understood the new investigation will involve a full review of the original case file including witness statements, a detailed analysis of potentially new evidence submitted since 2019 and a consideration of any new forensic or technical examinations which may be appropriate.

Late last year, the force appointed the team to carry out a preliminary assessment of the investigation into the killing.

Four detectives from the Serious Crime Review Team examined the case file, which exceeds 4,000 pages and has been submitted four times to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

It is understood that the team examined whether forensics issues and advances in technology would make the case worth revisiting.

It also examined witness statements and whether people who declined to co-operate 25 years ago might now have changed their position, possibly due to a change in their personal circumstances.

Last December, Ms Toscan du Plantier's family – led by her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud – staged a private memorial in Paris to mark the 25th anniversary of the film executive's death.

His eldest daughter is named Sophie in honour of her grandmother and Mr Baudey-Vignaud now spearheads the campaign to see justice done for his mother.

Mr Baudey-Vignaud also publicly appealed, via an appearance on RTÉ's Late Late Show, for anyone with information on his mother's killing to contact gardaí.

Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite, formerly attended a special memorial service in West Cork each year but age, ill health and the

Covid-19 pandemic have prevented any of her elderly relatives from travelling.

The film executive was savagely beaten to death as she fled a suspected intruder at her home on December 23, 1996, just hours before she was due to fly back to France to spend Christmas with her family.

She died after a frenzied attack in which she was beaten with a heavy rock after apparently being chased down a laneway from her home as she tried in vain to flee her attacker.

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Former chief suspect Ian Bailey wrote to the Garda Commissioner seeking a cold-case review. Photo: Niall Carson

Former chief suspect Ian Bailey wrote to the Garda Commissioner seeking a cold-case review. Photo: Niall Carson

Former chief suspect Ian Bailey wrote to the Garda Commissioner seeking a cold-case review. Photo: Niall Carson

The savagery with which she was attacked shocked both locals and even veteran gardaí with around 50 blows being inflicted.

Such was the repeated and brutal nature of the blows to the head that detectives believed the killer had tried to render her completely unrecognisable.

Gardaí have insisted the case is still open and active.

However, no one has ever been charged with the killing in Ireland.

Earlier this month in the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that gardaí will do everything they possibly can to bring the murderer of Sophie Toscan du Plantier to justice, saying the case was “a stain on Irish society”.

He was responding to a West Cork TD who said the public wanted to know that the brutal 1996 killing was still being investigated, and who criticised what he called “posturing” in the locality of the killing.

“I want to say that this murder is a stain on Irish society. I think it was greeted with shock and horror by the people of the country,” Micheál Martin told Rural Independent TD Michael Collins.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was a prominent socialite and filmmaker who was married to the famous head of the French film body Unifrance, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a close friend of former president of France, Jacques Chirac.

Mr Bailey – who was convicted in absentia by a French court of the killing in 2019 – wrote last May to Commissioner Harris, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Department of Justice and DPP about a cold-case review.

Both the department and Taoiseach's office acknowledged the correspondence.

He sought a look-back study as he claimed there was now clear evidence that would eliminate him as a suspect and clear his name.

Mr Bailey has vehemently protested his innocence in relation to the crime for almost 25 years – but was convicted in absentia of the killing by a Paris court in May 2019.

Two cold-case reviews have been conducted on the case file since – and a major review of the entire garda investigation was conducted almost 17 years ago by then Assistant Commissioner Ray McAndrew.

The McAndrew report has never been released.

A major examination of the original investigation was also conducted by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) following a formal complaint from Mr Bailey.

Mr Bailey's legal team dismissed the French prosecution as "a show trial" and "a mockery of justice".

Ireland's DPP ruled Mr Bailey did not have a case to answer after he was twice arrested by gardaí in 1997 and 1998 but released without charge on each occasion.

On three occasions French bids to have Mr Bailey extradited to Paris were rejected by Irish courts, the most recent of which was in October 2020.

The murder has been under an unprecedented spotlight in recent times with, over a 12-month period, two major TV documentaries being released on the unsolved killing as well as an updated podcast series and five books in France and Ireland/UK.

Mr Bailey said his life had been rendered "a total nightmare" by being wrongly linked with the case for three decades.

"I have been fighting for justice for 24 years – people tend to forget that. I am an innocent person caught up in this nightmare. My life has been destroyed by this," he said.

"This has been a never-ending nightmare for me.

"The truth is that some people want to see me bonfired for this – for something I am totally innocent of."

A journalist, poet, law student, wood-turner and bodhrán-maker, Mr Bailey acknowledged that it has been very difficult for him over recent times.

Last year, he was convicted of drug driving before Bantry District Court though he is now appealing that conviction.

He admitted his split from his long-time partner, Jules Thomas, who is a respected Welsh artist, also took him by surprise.

The generation of so much publicity by books and TV documentaries about the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case has also inflicted its own pressure.

"I have been doing everything I can to stay calm in the middle of all of this. That is not easy when there are some devils out there who are determined to see me bonfired," Mr Bailey added.

"This has been an absolute torture and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight."

Mr Bailey said that what has shocked him most is that he believed there are people in Ireland who know he is entirely innocent but yet they have remained silent while he has been subjected to various judicial proceedings since 1997.

"It is like being caught in a storm. But I have been meditating and writing poetry which, of course, always helps."

Sophie Toscan du Plantier's beloved Toormore holiday cottage is now owned by her son, Pierre-Louis.


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