Investigation into Garda handling of Toscan du Plantier case

Fennelly Commission investigation in West Cork found no evidence of illegal behaviour

 

Some gardaí involved in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation in West Cork were willing to engage in improper conduct, but there is no evidence of illegal behaviour, the Fennelly Commission investigation found.

Five of the telephone lines installed in the Bandon Garda station incident room set up after Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered at in Schull in December 1996 were used to record conversations .

Mr Justice Niall Fennelly and his team examined the recordings made and identified 297 calls directly linked to the murder. Of these, they closely reviewed 131 to see if they revealed potentially unlawful or improper conduct.

Under four categories, they checked whether the calls revealed a willingness by any gardaí to contemplate falsifying, altering and/or suppressing evidence and whether there was any evidence that this had happened.

They looked, too, for evidence that gardaí had provided illegal drugs and money to a potential witness to secure his help in obtaining evidence against the principal suspect, Ian Bailey.

They also examined whether gardaí dealt improperly with an assault victim in Schull as a result of a link to a key witness in the investigation and whether the recordings revealed the improper disclosure of information.

The commission found two instances where gardaí appeared willing to contemplate allowing or encouraging certain people to make false allegations or to give false evidence about an assault alleged to have been carried out by the husband of key witness, Ms A.

‘Disturbing’

In one call, an officer identified as Det Garda Delta suggested gardaí could obtain a statement from the alleged perpetrator , Mr A, and his colleague Garda Epsilon observed it could be pre-dated to suggest it was made before the alleged victim of the assault, Mr C, made a complaint.

The Commission found that the suggestion by Garda Epsilon – which was not contested or objected to by Det Garda Delta – that “a statement relating to a serious assault could be pre-dated, discloses evidence of improper conduct”.

Det Garda Delta also appeared to suggest that Mr A could say that Mr C “threw a punch” at him first. Such statements were never made as Mr C did not make a complaint, but the Commission found it “disturbing” that gardaí would discuss slanting or falsifying evidence.

Some calls appeared to disclose evidence that gardaí had put “undue pressure” on Mr C not to make a formal complaint in relation to the assault and this was done apparently to ensure the continued co-operation of Mr A’s wife, Ms A, with the investigation, the Commission found.

The Commission found from other calls that gardaí knew were being recorded that another witness, Mr B, overtly or implicitly asked gardaí for drugs and cash to help them investigate Mr Bailey and, while gardaí did not reject these requests, there was no evidence they agreed to supply him with drugs.

It said it “found no evidence that any member of An Garda Síochána expressly or impliedly offered to pay substantial sums of money to Mr B in return for his making a statement incriminating Mr Ian Bailey in the murder” and these calls did not reveal “evidence of unlawful or improper conduct”.

Regarding the disclosure of information to third parties, they found that a now deceased officer, Det Sgt Alpha, did disclose confidential information to civilians and in one case to a journalist and that Det Garda Delta disclosed confidential information to Ms A and both appeared inappropriate.