Detective Garda denies ‘scratching around’ for evidence against Ian Bailey

Denied he was at ‘forefront’ of efforts to ensure Mr Bailey was charged with murder

 

A Detective Garda has denied a suggestion he was so convinced Ian Bailey had murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier he was “scratching around” for any evidence against him when gardaí had “none”.

Jim Fitzgerald, now retired, denied he was prejudiced against Mr Bailey or “at the forefront” of efforts by gardai to ensure Mr Bailey was charged with the murder.

Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, put to Mr Fitzgerald he was convinced “from your prejudiced position” Mr Bailey was guilty of the murder and tape recordings were “full” of his “unguarded remarks” about this “bollocks” Bailey.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was investigating a “very serious” murder, did not know Mr Bailey at the time of his first arrest and it was wrong to suggest he was convinced of his guilt.

Gardaí interviewed another man in France after Mr Fitzgerald nominated that man as a suspect after being told of an acrimonious relationship between that man and the deceased, he added.

Asked would it be “inconceivable” gardaí might have got it “spectacularly wrong”, Mr Fitzgerald said there was a reasonable suspicion of Mr Bailey, several grounds for arresting him and gardai would have been negligent if they had not done so. The investigation was carried out in a normal fashion, he said.

He agreed things have gone wrong in other cases and, asked about Frank McBrearty and gardaí in Donegal, said he had no involvement in that and it was “entirely unfair” for counsel to bring that in. Mr Bailey had not been charged, he added.

He rejected a suggestion that Martin Graham, who had approached gardaí in February 1997 concerning Mr Bailey, had “played” gardaí “from the start”.

Mr Graham told gardaí he had come to them out of civic duty arising from his concern about things Mr Bailey had said, but Mr Graham later became “greedy”. He had lost confidence in Mr Graham by May 1997 when gardaí and Mr Graham were recording each other’s conversations.

He denied a key witness, Marie Farrell, was so terrified of her husband finding out who she was with in the early hours of December 23rd, 1996 she “turned” a man whom she said she saw on the road near Schull at that time into Ian Bailey. He also denied he “concocted” a memo to build a case against Mr Bailey to forward to the DPP.

The cross-examination of Mr Fitzgerald concluded yesterday on the 51st day of the civil action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the investigation into the murder of Ms du Plantier whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd 1996. The defendants deny all Mr Bailey’s claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Yesterday, Mr Justice John Hedigan said he had discussed with the jury foreman the jury’s difficulties because of the length of time the case was taking. While “highly sympathetic”, he was limited in what he could do to mitigate the jury’s difficulties, the judge said.

To facilitate a juror, the case has been adjourned to next Tuesday when the jury will be given a best estimate of how long more it will run.

Yesterday, Garda Anthony Finn said he was attached to Goleen, a sub-station of Schull, in 2004 and 2005 when he had dealings with Marie Farrell’s family. He stopped her son Michael, then aged 17, when driving in January 2004 and again in October, December 2004 and March 2005 concerning motor tax and insurance.

He met Michael and his parents on one occasion at East End, Schull. When Chris Farrell asked why he had stopped his son, Garda Finn said he told Mr Farrell it related to road traffic matters. Mr Farrell was “quite irate” and said he had better not stop him again on his own because he would not be able to “handle” him, he said.

He had noted that encounter and forwarded it to superiors. Michael Farrell later pleaded guilty to certain motor tax offences, was fined €500 and disqualified, he said.

Those matters predated Ms Farrell’s retraction of her statements for the du Plantier investigation and he himself had no involvement in that probe.

He said he jokingly called David Farrell a “bollocks” having genuinely mistaken him from behind on a street in Schull for a grandson of Garda Finn’s landlady. He had apologised to David Farrell straightaway and later apologised to Ms Farrell who accepted his apology.

Ms Farrell’s allegation Garda Finn used to walk by her son and call him “a little bastard” was “a complete fabrication” and he had dealt professionally with Ms Farrell at all times.

Ms Farrell made an untrue complaint about him in February 2006 and, in the “interests of fairness”, he had asked that an independent body should investigate it, he said. Ms Farrell later withdrew her complaint.

Asked about her claims her teenage son talked of jumping into the sea as a result of alleged actions by Garda Finn, he said there was no mention of that in her complaint.

Earlier, Jim Fitzgerald denied it was “nonsense” for him to say he gave Martin Graham a DUMA pouch of loose tobacco on May 22nd, 1997 when Mr Graham was travelling with gardai in a Garda car. He knew the conversation in the Garda car was being taped and agreed there were “no unguarded remarks” during it. “And there’s no swear words either.”

He denied a suggestion he was “scratching around for any evidence when there was none”.

Asked about Mr Bailey’s description as a “regrettable black joke” his remark he killed Ms du Plantier to further his journalistic career, Mr Fitzgerald said he understood the concept of black humour but, with such a serious murder “and the death that woman got”, he did not think anyone would engage in such humour.

Asked about a remark by himself during a recorded phone call “we might get another murder out of it”, he said there was a big difference between talking about a murder and making an admission about it.