Ian Bailey case: No ‘dramatic leads’ from friend of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Retired detective tells High Court of interviews with producer and friend of late Sophie Toscan du Plantier

A detective garda has told the High Court he did not recall any "dramatic leads" came from statements made by a French tv producer concerning details of a former lover of murdered woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Det Garda James Bernard Hanley, now retired, said he had no recall of statements taken by him in January 1997 arising from interviews with a producer and friend of Ms Toscan du Plantier. He accepted his name was on them but did not believe the information in them lead to any dramatic leads.

Ronan Munro BL, for Ian Bailey, said some details of those statements were "memorable" and "dramatic" and suggested they should have been followed up. The statements are not among documents discovered in Mr Bailey's case and are in other proceedings, the court heard.

Detective Garda Jim Slattery, now retired, was also involved in the murder investigation. He denied suggestions today that a memo of a meeting with Marie Farrell containing a reference to Ian Bailey was an "invention" and its contents were "Garda speak".


He agreed the memo was written up by Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald on February 7th 1997 and was based on Mr Slattery’s and Mr Fitzgerald’s memory of the January 28th meeting with Ms Farrell.

Ms Farrell had said she did not want notes taken at the time and Mr Fitzgerald later wrote up what she had said to gardaí, he said.

The jury in Mr Bailey’s civil action has heard the memo stated Ms Farrell had said she now knew a man she saw on the night of December 22nd/23rd 1996 on the road near Schull was Ian Bailey.

When Tom Creed SC, for Ms Bailey, suggested it was “extraordinary” the memo was written in the first person singular “I”, he said it was unusual and not the usual question and answer format.

He denied the use of sentences such as “I now know him to be Ian Bailey” was “Garda speak” and the memo was an invention.

The memo was signed by himself and Mr Fitzgerald but was not signed by Ms Farrell, he said.

He also said he was not privy to any arrangement involving gardaí being directed by the incident room of the murder investigation to get a statement from Ms Farrell.

Today is the 45th day of 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.

The defendants deny all of Mr Bailey’s claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Today, Mr Slattery said, when he went to Garda Kelleher’s house in January 28th 1997, Ms Farrell was there. He could not recall referring to a video about the Schull Christmas Day 1996 swim in his statement to the 2006 McAndrew Garda inquiry into complaints by Mr Bailey.

He said Ms Farrell admitted on January 28th 1997 she was the anonymous caller Fiona who had contacted gardaí on Christmas Day 1996 concerning signithings of a man in and near Schull.

He agreed she had said she was not going to make a statement and was not going to go to court and did not want her husband to know about it. He had no recollection whatsoever of her being told all gardai wanted was a few lines of a statement.

He agreed a statement would be helpful for gardaí.

Mr Slattery denied it was untrue for him to say he just happened to be in the car with Jim Fitzgerald on both occasions they met with Ms Farrell on January 28th and February 14th 1997.

He disagreed the memo of February 7th 1997 was an “invention” and said it reflected the contents of what went on. He was not saying it reflected what Ms Farrell said “word for word”.

In his evidence, James Bernard Hanley said he was attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in late 1996 when he joined the murder investigation. His tasks included reading statements as they came in and taking jobs from those.

He was involved in interviewing Mr Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas when both were arrested on February 10th 1997. He was aware on February 9th 1997 the arrests were to occur. He had interviewed Mr Bailey on two different occasions.

He and Detective Gerard Dillon interviewed Mr Bailey at 5.18pm and he and Det Sgt Patrck Lynagh also interviewed him about 10pm. He and Det Garda Dillo also drove Mr Bailey to Russell Barrett's house at Skibbereen after his release.

He said he told Mr Bailey, when they got to Skibbereen, in the car he had taken notes of the second interview and read those over to him. He also interviewed Mr Bailey during his second arrest on January 28th 1998.

Mr Hanley said he was also involved in an interview with Ms Thomas of September 2000.

The Garda notes of those interviews represented an accurate account of what occurred and the notes were read over to Ms Thomas and she agreed they were correct and signed them. Nothing untoward happened during the various interviews, he said.

Cross-examined by Ronan Munro, for Mr Bailey, he denied Ms Thomas’s arrest was coordinated with Mr Bailey’s so as to put pressure on Mr Bailey. He disagreed it was a proven Garda method to arrest a suspect’s partner to break a suspect.

Asked had he ever done it himself, he said there was a case where Paul Ward, while he was a suspect for the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, made certain admissions after he was visited in custody by his girlfriend Vanessa Meehan at her request and a court later ruled that was an improper visit.

Mr Hanley agreed Ms Meehan’s visit to Mr Ward was supervised by himself and another Garda.

Counsel said Ms Meehan was interviewed by Mr Hanley and another Garda in a different Garda station form Mr Ward. Mr Hanley agreed that was unusual. He believed she had given an alibi for Mr Ward and had changed her statement following the interview, saying she was not at the house at the relevant time.

The case continues.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times