A man has told a High Court jury two unidentified gardaí threatened him with the "Provos" after dragging him into a car in Skibbereen and driving him around "digging" him, demanding he hand over recordings.
Becoming upset, Martin Graham, who served with British forces in Northern Ireland for two years, said: "I thought I was going to be murdered."
Mr Graham said he believed the recordings being referred to related to his having previously arranged with the Irish Mirror newaspaper he would secretly record a conversation with gardaí after he told the newspaper he was given cannabis by two detectives in order to approach journalist Ian Bailey and "soften him up".
The recording device did not in fact activate but a media photographer took pictures of him with cannabis after returning from meeting Det Garda Jim Fitzpatrick and Liam Leahy in their car, he said.
He said he had met those two detectives on various occasions after he had gone to Skibbereen Garda station soon after his first encounter with Mr Bailey in February 1997 at the home of Russell Barrett in Skibbereen.
Mr Bailey went there when freed after his first arrest on February 10th 1997 in connection with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd, 1996.
Mr Graham said Det Gardai Fitzgerald and Leahy wanted him to befriend Mr Bailey and had given him cash, cannabis and clothes as “incentives” to do so.
He said he was also told “the family” would be grateful if he could come up with a favourable statement, which he took to mean as a statement that would implicate Mr Bailey in the murder. There was a reference to £5,000, he said.
He said he ultimately “came clean” with Mr Bailey about his dealings with gardaí and told Mr Bailey he was “being stitched up ”. He did not remember when he told Mr Bailey that.
He also contacted the newspapers because he felt threatened and in a dangerous position and wanted “insurance”, he said. Some papers didn’t want to know but eventually he met a reporter and photographer from the Irish Mirror and it was arranged he would meet the two detectives in Skibbereen, the media would watch and take photos and he would record the encounter.
He was searched by the media representatives before he met the gardaí to ensure he had nothing on him. He then met the gardaí and was given cannabis and the media took photos of him with the cannabis, in a police evidence bag, when he got back. The recording had not activated, he said.
He was giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and state arising from the invetsigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier. They deny all his claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy to manufacture evidence.
Mr Graham said recordings of conversations involving him and gardai in May 1997 were made at a time “when I knew they knew people were taping people”. His relationship with gardaí by then was “terrible” but he pretended otherwise and was “just saying anything because I felt threatened”, he said.
He had arranged to meet Det Fitzgerald and Det Leahy in late May or early June 1997 at the bridge in Skibbereen because he could not get out of that, he said. As he was walking across the bridge, he saw their car coming towards him and another car coming toward him from another direction.
He was dragged and dumped into the back of that other car with two unknown men who did not say who they were and was pushed down into the back of the seats.
He hadn’t a clue who the men were and thought he was going to be murdered, he said. This was because he had “just caught policemen being corrupt” and they could lose their careeers and pensions.
He was driven round for up to 45 minutes with one of the men digging him and pushing him in the back, neck and shoulders, asking for recordings and saying: “Where’s the tapes?”
He was also threatened with “the Provos”, which had a resonance for him as he had served in Northern Ireland, he said.
He was eventually driven to the Garda station where all his bags had been brought up fromn his accommodation and those were searched and they kept asking for the tapes. He was let go after about 45 minutes because a sergeant there said so and he was not charged with anything, he said.
He said the gardai assumed he left the town but he stayed in a flat in Skibbereen for two weeks before "legging" it to Cork city after which he left the country. He had only returned to give evidence and still does not feel safe, he said.
The case continues.