Garda denies telling Bailey ‘nice little cell’ waiting in Mountjoy

Witness denies giving assurance of no court appearance

An important witness in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation was not assured by gardaí she would not have to go to court, that would be "ridiculous", a Garda Detective Superintendent has told the High Court.

Det Inspector Ted Murphy, now retired, was attached to the special investigations unit at Garda HQ when seconded to the murder investigation in late December 1996. He said he decided in May 1997, five months later, it was time for Marie Farrell to "put up or shut up".

He was giving evidence on the 41st day of the action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd, 1996. The defendants deny all his claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Ms Farrell had said she was with a male companion when she allegedly saw a man at Kealfada Bridge near Schull on the night of December 22nd/23rd, 1996, hours before Ms du Plantier’s body was found, and it was important to get corroboration of this from her companion, he said.

Having spoken to the man Ms Farrell named as her companion and his wife, gardaí were satisfied, “beyond any reasonable doubt”, he was not her companion, he said.

When gardaí confronted Ms Farrell about this, she indicated she was compromised in saying who she was with, had a violent husband and was concerned she might lose custody of her children, he said.

No assurances were given she would not have to go to court and while gardai told her they appreciated the position she was in, she was told she must tell the truth, he said.

He said he and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald met Ms Farrell on three occasions over 12 days from May 9th, 1997, and she twice asked for time. After the third meeting, he said he decided, due to absence of corroboration, it was no longer fruitful to pursue her alleged sighting of a man at Kealfada Bridge. There was still no corroboration of her evidence, he added.

Earlier, Mr Murphy denied he had said to Ian Bailey there was a "nice little cell waiting for you in Mountjoy".

That never happened, he said.

The jury was told by Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, the Criminal Justice Act 1984 does not require authorisation for the taking of clothes from detained persons once an alternative set of clothing is provided.

Counsel's clarification arose from questions put by him on Thursday to Sgt Des Prendergast, member in charge of Bandon garda station during Mr Bailey's detention on February 10th, 1997, about whether there was authorisation for taking clothing from Mr Bailey during his detention.

Sgt Prendergast had said he could not recall the precise provisions of the law in that regard.

Detective Garda Gerard Dillon, now retired, denied claims that gardaí told Mr Bailey, after his release from detention on February 10th, 1997, he could not go home, his partner did not want to see him and there was a "lynch mob" waiting. None of that happened, Mr Dillon said.

He said he and Det Garda Bernie Hanley were instructed to bring Mr Bailey home and his recollection was Mr Bailey told them, when in the car, he was staying in Skibbereen that night.

The conversation in the car was “general” and Mr Bailey had thanked the gardaí for driving him to Skibbereen, he said.

Before he left the Garda car, Mr Bailey signed notes of an interview after agreeing they were correct having had them read over to him by Det Garda Hanley, Mr Dillon said.

Earlier, Mr Dillon said he was stationed in Galway in 1997 but was available to Garda national investigations units if required and travelled to Bandon on February 9th, 1997, to interview Mr Bailey the next day because he was directed to do so. He interviewed Mr Bailey with Det Garda Hanley and took a note of that interview.

He was aware of the grounds of Mr Bailey’s arrest, including alleged admissions by him and scratches on his hands and arms. When counsel suggested no one asked Mr Bailey about the scratches and that indicated the ground of arrest concerning scratches was “nonsense”, Mr Dillon said he had not asked Mr Bailey about scratches and was not aware if other gardai had.

He agreed Mr Bailey was asked about his conversation with journalist Eddie Cassidy on December 23rd, 1996, the day the body of Ms du Plantier was found. He could not recall details concerning the time Mr Cassidy learned the victim was a French national.

He would not be in favour of inviting someone to come voluntarily to a Garda station and make a cautioned statement. That happened “very seldom”, he said.

In his evidence, Mr Murphy said investigations are governed by the Garda code which clearly sets out the various functions in an investigation. He was happy with how the incident room for this investigation was set up and the key issues had been dealt with.

He told Mr Creed he decided, within days of joining the investigation, the first questionnaire distributed by gardaí should be more extended and a second questionnaire was prepared. He did not know who did the first questionnaire and it was fair to note it would have had to be prepared hurriedly.

Due to difficulties experienced by a juror, the case was adjourned early to resume on Tuesday