SHOPKEEPER Marie Farrell has told the High Court she saw a stranger on a road between Goleen and Schull in west Cork some hours before the body of murder victim Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found.
Ms Farrell said she had seen the same man standing across the road from her shop in Schull the previous Saturday afternoon, December 21, 1996, when a woman she now knew was Ms Toscan Du Plantier was browsing inside.
She did not know the man but said he was "not Ian Bailey".
He "stood out as being a stranger", was slim, with sallow skin, about 5 foot 8 inches, and wore a beret and long black coat with silver buttons.
Ms Toscan du Plantier left the shop and turned right and, a minute or two later, the man crossed the road and walked in the same direction as her, she said.
She said she saw the man about 7am the next morning, December 22, walking out of Schull when she was driving from Schull into Cork.
She saw him a third time about 2am on December 23 when she was in a car being driven by a friend towards Schull from Goleen, and he appeared to be staggering.
After learning of the murder, she rang gardai on Christmas morning and told them about seeing the man on December 21 and the morning of December 22.
Ms Farrell began her evidence yesterday afternoon in the civil action by journalist Ian Bailey against the Garda Commisioner and State who deny his claims, including of wrongful arrest arising from the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan Du Plantier's.
At the outset, asked by Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, if she received any threats or inducements to come to court, Ms Farrell said she had not.
She understood she was to tell the truth. When she gave evidence at a 2003 libel action brought by Mr Bailey, she had not told the truth, she said.
She said she and her husband Chris are from Longford but moved to Schull in 1995 with their five children.
She went on to outline a number of prosecutions taken against her husband over motor insurance following their move, as well as queries regarding the legality of a stall they sold knitwear from in a local market.
Earlier, at the close of cross-examination of Mr Bailey's partner Jules Thomas, Ms Thomas denied she had had contact with Ms Farrell.
Ms Thomas also denied her recollection of events since the murder has "mutated" over the years.
Earlier, Ms Thomas was asked about events in her home in the early hours of January 1, 1999, when two friends, Richard and Rosie Shelley were there.
Mr O'Higgins said Mr Shelley would give evidence Mr Bailey had produced a scrapbook with articles about the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier and had later said: "I did it".
When Mr Shelly asked Mr Bailey about this, Mr Bailey said: "I went too far, I went too far." He then became upset.
Ms Thomas said the Shelleys were "out of it" and she did not think they knew what was going on.
The case continues.