Toscan du Plantier suspect was ruled out

Mon, Dec 19, 2011, 00:00

GARDAÍ INVESTIGATING the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier ruled out a French man who had visited her in west Cork after they received confirmation he was in France at the time of her murder.

The man, who was named in a 2001 review by a solicitor in the DPP’s office of the Garda investigation into the killing, was one of more than 10 people who gardaí initially viewed as possible suspects for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier (39).

The man, who was in his 40s at the time, was a close friend of Ms Toscan du Plantier and had been with her on holiday in Schull on two or three occasions up to 1995 but he had not been to west Cork with her in the year before her death.

Ms Toscan du Plantier’s badly battered body was found near the entrance to the private laneway which led to her isolated holiday home at Dreenane near Toormore outside Schull on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.

Gardaí learned of the man’s visits with Ms Toscan du Plantier to west Cork when speaking with a local woman and gardaí made an international rogatory request to the French authorities to have French police interview the man.

Three gardaí travelled to Paris in February 1997 where they met with the man before he was interviewed on their behalf by French police officers at a police station in central Paris.

According to Garda sources, the man, an artist, was able to confirm that he was attending an auction of his paintings in the south of France on December 22nd, 1996, on the eve of Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder.

Ms Toscan du Plantier spoke to her husband, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, late on the night of December 22nd and gardaí believe that she was murdered some time around 2-3am on December 23rd, 1996.

The French suspect’s statement that he was in the south of France was confirmed by independent witnesses but gardaí carried out further inquiries to see if there was any way that he could have travelled to Ireland.

Gardaí checked both airports and ports to see if the man could have come to Ireland that weekend and they examined CCTV footage and passenger lists and found no evidence that he had travelled to Ireland.

According to a Garda source, the French man was one of over 10 people who were initially looked at by gardaí as possible suspects for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder, with all of them being investigated before gardaí narrowed their focus on English journalist Ian Bailey.

The review carried out by a solicitor at the DPP’s office in November 2001 was highly critical of the Garda investigation into the murder, including the manner in which officers focused on Mr Bailey as a suspect in the case.

The review was given by the DPP’s office last month to lawyers for Mr Bailey (54) as they were preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court against a High Court order to allow his extradition to France in connection with the murder.

Counsel for Mr Bailey, Martin Giblin SC, said that the review revealed “breathtaking” levels of misbehaviour by gardaí in the course of their investigation into Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder

Mr Bailey, who is studying law at post-graduate level in UCC, was twice arrested for questioning about Ms Toscan du Plantier’s killing but has always denied any involvement in the murder and has alleged that he was wrongly targeted by gardaí.