Ian Bailey case: Court hears Gardaí said all we have is ‘weak circumstantial evidence’

Jury told that gardaí said that they needed to ‘break’ Bailey’s partner Jules Thomas

A Detective Sergeant involved in the investigation of the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier told a Detective Chief Superintendent in 1997 "all we have" against journalist Ian Bailey was "very weak circumstantial evidence", a High Court jury has heard.

In a recorded conversation of June 25th 1997, Sgt Liam Hogan, now deceased, said "...even to have him there at 3 o'clock in the morning, he is still a mile and a half from the scene, he roams the f***ing place all the time".

Sgt Hogan told Supt Sean Camon, also deceased, they had to "break" Mr Bailey's partner, Jules Thomas. "I tell you now, unless we break Jules, who I think must have f***ing something for us, we need her broken and we need to have it because if you stand back from it, it is a very arguable 50/50."

Earlier in the conversation, when discussing a file for the DPP, Supt Camon said: “That auld interim file that came up was a load of gobbledygook”. Sgt Hogan replies: “... that was written in a day”.

When Supt Camon says: “Kelleher had a memo on that too which was real Pudsy Ryan entirely”, Sgt Hogan replies: “You see there are statements here that I have to go back to fill it in, I have to talk to them, one man put in here ‘I believe she was attempting to tell the truth and trying to recall’ ... when the evidence clearly shows ... she is anything but, she has been out there working, conniving, twisting.”

When Supt Camon says: “That is not f***ing evidence”, Sgt Hogan replies: “I know but it is in the statement, it has to be taken f***ing out of it.”

When Sgt Hogan later says: “Barnes is not going to go out on a limb on this one”, Supt Camon says: “He doesn’t go out on a limb on anything.”

Sgt Hogan also says Mr Bailey, after his release (following his first arrest on February 10th 1997), “went to the Jacksons the next day and questioned them about what they said to the Guards, himself and Jules did, and that wasn’t picked up to a great degree”.

Sgt Hogan also says: “Bailey has been saying ‘The Guards are saying I got a blackout, sure maybe I did and I did it’ and that Mr Bailey had said in the local pub he would “take the pension ... off a couple of Guards yet”

The recorded conversation between the two men was among six recordings made at Bandon garda station and played in court yesterday in the civil 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 near Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

Mr Bailey, who has always denied any involvement in the murder, has alleged wrongful arrest and conspiracy among various claims. The defendants deny all the claims.

After 24 days at hearing, during which evidence was heard from nine witnesses, including Mr Bailey, Ms Thomas and Marie Farrell, the action has adjourned to resume on January 13th. Mr Justice John Hedigan wished the jury a Happy Christmas. He recognised this was a “difficult and onerous” case but it was “also very interesting”, the judge added.

Yesterday, Chief Supt Thomas Hayes, now in charge of the du Plantier murder investigation, said the investigation was continuing. He was also aware of a number of road traffic warrants, two or three, related to Marie Farrell that were not paid and were not reissued.

In another recorded conversation of June 23rd, 1997, Sgt Hogan and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald discussed a statement by Beryl Thomas, mother of Jules Thomas, her daughter would be protective of "your man" and "cover up for him".

Sgt Hogan was told by Det Fitzgerald another man was making a statement Mr Bailey “told him that he wanted to set up these two guards in a fraudulent scene”. Later, Sgt Hogan said Mr Bailey had told a woman he had a theory “Sophie’s husband” had “hired a hitman to kill her” and injuries to her hands were inflicted to give the impression “a local madman” had done it.

Det Fitzgerald replied: “That’s right, and he’s a self-admitting madman.” Sgt Hogan replies: “Yes, absolutely.”

Det Fitzgerald also refers to being told he would have to transcribe the tapes of a man, Martin Graham, and they could not be kept from the DPP.

Sgt Hogan also talks about “a pattern” and states “he and Jules went and quizzed the Jacksons in the early days”. He says “...so this is brilliant like, in a way, if we can get a charge at all we’ll get a charge on the two of them I think”.

He goes on to ask: “Wouldn’t that be a great achievement?” and says “And I want one of the f***ing charge sheets”. Det Fitzgerald says: “Oh, it doesn’t matter a f*** to me anyway.”

Det Hogan also refers to questionnaires being “a f*** up from day one”.

In a conversation between Garda Billy Byrne and Det Fitzgerald of April 18th 1997, Det Fitzgerald describes Marie Farrell as “a tough cookie” and says she “would be a good witness, like”.

In an October 29th 1997 conversation between Det Fitzgerald and Marie Farrell, he says: “We’ll keep at the f***ing thing now anyway. Might as well f***ing see it out.” Later, Ms Farrell tells Det Fitzgerald: “You see, you always cheer me up”.

The jury also heard evidence via videolink from Gloucester from John Alan Hawkins, a freelance journalist, and Mike Charity, a freelance photographer.

Mr Hawkins said Mr Bailey had trained as a journalist with him for about three and a half years before Mr Bailey left in the late 1970s to set up a freelance agency in Cheltenham, 10 miles away.

He considered Mr Bailey had all the right qualities for journalism although sometimes he preferred to socialise than work. The biggest story Mr Bailey worked on concerned a Russian spy, Geoffrey Prine and Mr Bailey had discovered material in that regard which was published in the national newspapers, he said.

Mr Charity said he had worked on stories with Mr Bailey for about a decade, including stories relating to the British royal family, and remained friendly with him.