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Gardai made no threats to Bailey, says ex-detective

JOURNALIST Ian Bailey was not threatened or treated aggressively by gardai following his arrest in February 1997 on suspicion of the 1996 murder in west Cork of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a former detective told the High Court.

Retired Det Garda Denis Harrington is the State's first witness in its defence of Mr Bailey's action for damages over the conduct of the investigation into the murder.

Defence

His testimony began on the 36th day of the case, during which evidence has been heard from 21 witnesses called by Mr Bailey.

In defending the claim, the Garda Commissioner and State deny all of Mr Bailey's claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy to manufacture evidence.

Mr Harrington said he was present when Mr Bailey was arrested at his home near Schull on February 10, 1997, on suspicion of the murder of Ms du Plantier, whose body was found near Toomore, Schull, on December 23, 1996.

While he would not say it was a "courteous" journey to Bandon garda station, it was "official" with "no undue unpleasantries". There was no threat issued to Mr Bailey during the journey, he added.

He also said he saw scratches on the backs of Mr Bailey's hands and arms when he and Det Garda John Culligan called to Mr Bailey's home near Schull on December 31, 1996. Mr Bailey had said he got those cutting down a Christmas tree with Saffron Thomas, a daughter of his partner, Jules Thomas.

Mr Harrington said he grew up in the country and the scratches appeared to him "like briar cuts".

He said Det Culligan took notes of a conversation with Mr Bailey about his movements on December 23, 1996, and Mr Bailey agreed the notes were correct and signed them.

He and Det Garda Culligan asked to see Mr Bailey's passport on January 2 and also went to Mr Bailey's house on January 9 after he had contacted them, saying he wanted to discuss the case in general.

On February 10, 1997, he said he, Det Garda Culligan and Sgt Liam Ryan went to Mr Bailey's home and asked him to account for his movements at the time of the murder. He was then told he was being arrested on suspicion of murder and cautioned. Mr Bailey replied he had nothing to do with the murder.

Cross-examined by Ronan Munro BL, for Mr Bailey, Mr Harrington said he went to the murder scene on December 26, 1996 and the body was still there and the scene was preserved. The body was lying in mature, heavy, briars and he did not take a sketch or photos of them. He agreed, in hindsight, that would have been a good idea.

Lost

When Mr Munro said his side were told there was a suspect file on Mr Bailey and it seemed to be lost, Mr Harrington said he knew nothing about that and he left whatever papers he had with gardai.

Mr Harrington also agreed he and Det Garda Culligan had not taken a statement from Saffron Thomas in the context of Mr Bailey's claim she was present when he was cutting down the Christmas tree.

Mr Harrington said he could not recall at this stage what steps he took himself to see if Mr Bailey's account was corroborated.

The case continues.

hnews@herald.ie


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