Gardaí announced yesterday that a a cold-case review of the murder had been launched.
The decision came after calls for such a review of the original garda file. 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.
Detectives have examined potential new evidence over the past 12 months and also interviewed a number of potential witnesses, many in the wake of two high-profile documentaries on the case screened by Sky TV and Netflix.
One area seen as promising is the development of M-Vac technology that has proved adept at extracting DNA lying deep in rock surfaces that cannot be detected through the ordinary swabbing technology that was in place 25 years ago.
Gardaí still possess the bagged and bloody rock and concrete block that were used to bludgeon the 39-year-old filmmaker to death on the night of December 23, 1996, at her holiday home in Toormore, near Schull in Co Cork.
However, solicitor Frank Buttimer has argued that the new DNA testing technology cannot help in this instance.
“One of the problems about the case was the manner in which the initial investigation was conducted – crime scene matters, forensic matters of that kind, matters concerning pathology and so on and so forth, which if they had been maybe more carefully addressed at the time, might have led to lines of enquiry, or might have led to evidential gathering at that time,” he told RTÉ’s Moring Ireland programme.
“That’s not necessarily a criticism by the way because one must remember the location of the dreadful crime, it’s remote nature and all those things that were of relevance at the time, the time of year etc.
“Therefore, I suspect that that level of material, if it had been available, would probably have been… regarded as being useful by now. One can never rule it out obviously, but I would say that that line of enquiry is probably closed down.”
Mr Buttimer said Ian Bailey is ready and will cooperate with the garda investigation in “any way that he can”.
The file on Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder has never closed, and Mr Buttimer said he has spoken to senior gardaí over the years and nothing would give them “more satisfaction” than to solve the case.
He said Mr Bailey has been “wrongly associated” with crime for 26 years and his client has repeatedly called for the investigation to continue.
It’s reported that gardaí have received a new signed affidavit from a witness who claims they saw a suspect on the night of the murder and Mr Buttimer confirmed that he has “knowledge of it”.
Mr Buttimer said “there are not firm indications” that the new investigation will yield a positive result but there is a “chance that something will emerge”.
He added: “I would hope that there would be some possibility of success. I have no doubt that lines of enquiry will be pursued by the cold case investigation team. Their purpose... is to review the entirety of the file, to see what lines of enquiry may be pursued.
“It’s a mammoth task, there’s no doubt about it. I hope it’s properly resourced, structured, but I’m sure in the modern policing that we have in An Garda Siochana those matters will be relatively addressed.”
Speaking on the Today with Claire Byrne programme, former Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy said the cold-case review is being led by a “team of experts” who will bring “great knowledge and experience” to the investigation.
“Detective Superintendent Des McTiarnan… he is the head of the Serious Crime Review team. He is a consummate professional – hugely experienced in murder investigation,” he said.
“If I was putting a team together, Des McTiernan would be on it.”
Mr Leahy said Detective Superintendent McTiernan will lead a team that will “meticulously” go through and verify all of the statements in the case file.
“There’s a huge job to be done here but at least we know we’re getting a team of experts. That this is what their focus is. They’ll bring great knowledge and experience to this. So, that’s what generates the hope around this, but we can’t underestimate the scale of the job that is before them,” he added.
“It will be really important also there’s no pressure applied to the Serious Crime Review team in terms of timelines. Let them do there job now. This what they’ve trained to do. This is what they have experience in and they will deliver an outcome at the end of the day.”