Marie Farrell is ‘lynchpin’ of Ian Bailey’s case, court hears

Counsel argue jury should disbelieve claim garda stripped naked and asked for sex

Marie Farrell is the "lynchpin" of Ian Bailey's case against the Garda Commissioner and State but the evidence suggests she was "more than a conventional witness", the State has told a High Court jury in its closing address in the case.

Ms Farrell had told a woman she expected to get money from the action and had given conflicting accounts of matters over the years, Paul O’Higgins SC said.

If the matters alleged by Mr Bailey happened, the jury should also consider if he suffered any damage, counsel added.

Mr Bailey was never charged with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and, while arrested twice, was detained for a period of hours on each occasion. There was a reasonable suspicion grounding those arrests and Mr Bailey himself had told people various things, including he was a suspect, he said.


He had also told a local boy he murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier and gone up there with a rock and beaten her brain out, counsel said. Mr Bailey had said a lot of things in a small community and was also a man guilty of very serious violence before this murder.

Even before his arrests, he was “not particularly loved” because of violence to his partner, counsel added.

Mr O'Higgins also said a "sensational" allegation by Marie Farrell a Garda Sergeant Maurice Walsh exposed himself to her in the ladies toilets of Schull golf club while asking wasn't fitting up Mr Bailey a turn on was made for the purpose of discrediting Sergeant Walsh.

Ms Farrell needed to say something that would be so embarrassing to Sgt Walsh he would have to “shut his mouth”.

The jury should consider was it really likely Sgt Walsh would do such a thing and risk his job and promotion, counsel said. Independent evidence did not support Ms Farrell’s claim as the hand dryer in the toilets was not where she said it was and evidence from the golf club owner and its restaurant manager also did not support her claim, he said.

Counsel also argued the jury should disbelieve Ms Farrell's claim Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald stripped naked in a holiday home she was cleaning and asked her for sex and that she noticed a growth on his lower abdomen.

No evidence had been called from Ms Farrell’s husband Chris in relation to Det Fitzgerald’s evidence he had told Chris about the growth after Mr Farrell noticed blood on his shirt, counsel said.

Ms Farrell did not seem to have a “conventional attitude” to life and there were many things concerning her that did not suggest “complete straightforwardness.”

The first time Ms Farrell alleged she signed "blank" statements for gardaí was after Ian Bailey made a similar claim on a TV programme, he said.

Ms Farrell did a “somersault” concerning earlier statements made by her to gardaí after Mr Bailey went on the Vincent Browne show and alleged Ms Farrell signed blank statements, he said.

His case was the evidence by gardaí about those statements was much more consistent than that of Ms Farrell’s whose evidence had changed “dramatically” over the years.

Ms Farrell had told the jury a recording of her being interviewed by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which was played in court, indicated she was having difficulty distinguishing between fact and fiction, he said. The State's case was the jury would have similar difficulty when dealing with her evidence.

Ms Farrell’s “mantra” when confronted with any difficulty concerning her statements was that she was told what to say by Det Garda Fitzgerald and that was “unconvincing”.

While some tape recordings played in this case were of “excruciating embarrassment” to the gardaí, a “remarkable” thing was that Det Garda Fitzgerald, when he had no idea he was being recorded, had spoken about Mr Bailey approaching Ms Farrell when she had denied in court she ever told gardaí Mr Bailey was harassing her, he added.

There was an "immensely embarrassing" and "undignified" call between Det Fitzgerald and Ms Farrell when he objected to her having made a statement to Sgt Maurice Walsh, he added.

Det Fitzgerald’s conversations were “not of the choirboy tenor” but when one looked at the substance of the statements, rather than the language, they indicated someone “trying to humour a witness who was generally in control of the process”.

Ms Farrell is “the one in control” in most of the tapes, he said.

“If every Detective was Fr Dougal, you might not solve many crimes but one might prefer a little less of the language of Fr Jack in the tapes.”

Ms Farrell had threatened to withdraw statements but “never once” in recorded conversations alleged Det Fitzgerald had put her up to make statements, he said.

Mr O’Higgins is making closing arguments on behalf of the Garda Commissioner and State in the civil action brought against them by Mr Bailey over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Closing arguments are expected to finish this afternoon. The jury will later be charged by Mr Justice John Hedigan before retiring to consider their verdict.

Today, the judge told the jury there were two key issues for them to decide.

The first was whether three gardaí — Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald, Det Garda Jim Slattery and Garda Kevin Kelleher or any combination of them conspired together to implicate Ian Bailey in the murder of Sophie Toscan de Plantier by obtaining statements from Marie Farrell by threats,  inducement or intimidation which purportedly identified him  as the man she saw near the scene of the murder at Kealfada Bridge in the early hours of the  morning of December 23rd 1996 when they knew they were false.

The second question was did Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald and Det Sgt Maurice Walsh conspire by threats, inducements or intimidation to get statements from Marie Farrell that Ian Bailey had intimidated her when they knew they were false.

If the jury answer yes to either question, then they must decide if Mr Bailey suffered damage and, if so, how much damages he is entitled to. They must also decide if he is entitled to exemplary damages.

In his closing arguments, Mr O’Higgins said there was very little independent corroboration of the matters to be decided but the jury should consider Ms Farrell had given several versions of events which was not consistent with a person telling the truth.

A “telling factor” was that Ms Farrell had on January 17th 1997 identified Mr Bailey in Brosnan’s shop in Schull, he said.

Ms Farrell said she had identified Mr Bailey as the man she saw on a video tape which she claimed Garda Kelleher gave her on December 28th 1996.

The jury should consider whether it was probable that, on December 28th 1996, when gardaí said they had no tapes available to them, Garda Kelleher, the local garda, got his hands on a tape recording he could give to Ms Farrell so that she might identify Mr Bailey, counsel said. The State argued there was no such tape.

It was true Mr Bailey had been nominated as a suspect at that point but so had a large number of people, he said. Garda Martin Malone had nominated Mr Bailey as a suspect  due to being a violent man and because of Mr Bailey’s demeanour when speaking to gardai at the murder scene.

The State also disputed Ms Farrell’s claim she had not made a statement on January 22nd, 1997, in which she had identified Mr Bailey as the man she saw.

Ms Farrell thought what she saw was important enough to ring gardaí on Christmas Day about seeking a man at Air Hill near Schull, he said. However, in her evidence, Ms Farrell had said she did not see the importance of ringing in anonymously under the name Fiona.

There were major issues about descriptions of the man she saw, his height and build but there was no reason to disbelieve Det Garda Jim Slattery’s evidence that, when he spoke with Ms Farrell, he had no idea what height Mr Bailey was, counsel said.

There was also evidence her first description of the man’s height taken down by garda was five feet ten and that was taken by a Garda “at a time when no one had a clue about Ian Bailey”.

Ms Farrell had herself said she was bad on heights and the defence contended she had made mistakes in her descriptions, he added.

If Ms Farrell was being so put upon as alleged, why had she taken gardai to Kealfada Bridge on January 27th 1997, he asked.

While Ms Farrell denied she made a statement on February 14th 1997 at Ballydehob garda station, the “acid test” was what she said about that, he said.

Ms Farrell had given “radically different explanations” over the years of events, he said.

She had said she drove her own car on the night of December 22/23rd 1996 when she saw a man on the road but, in evidence, “suddenly” said she was in her male companion’s car. There was “a welter of explanations” of what she did that night but if she was telling the truth, those explanations “would not vary one whit”.

There was also a major controversy about statements, he said. The first reference to blank statements was by Mr Bailey on the Vincent Browne show in March 2012 and, “hey presto”, Ms Farrell’s statements then did a somersault and Ms Farrell agreed she went to Ballydehob but goes on to say she had signed “blank statements”.

That “dovertails” with what Mr Bailey said on Vincent Browne, he said.

Ms Farrell had in another interview denied she signed statements in blank, he added. Her tale of events of February 14th 1997 “does not gold water at all”, he said.

The claim of blank statements covered Ms Farrell’s difficulty of having signed earlier statements, he said. An earlier statement signed by her confirmed Mr Bailey was the man she had pointed out in Brosnan’s shop and she needed “to get rid of that”.

Counsel said he did not know why Ms Farrell identified Mr Bailey at Kealfada Bridge and he did not know if she was correct in identifying Mr Bailey at Kealfada Bridge.

However, what the gardai say is that is what she told them and all the evidence was much more consistent with the fact that is what she told them, he said.

The explanations by Ms Farrell had “changed dramatically” over the years for clear reasons, he argued.

Mr O’Higgins said Ms Farrell had given dishonest evidence in court denying Mr Bailey had come to her shop, told her about her history in England, that she owed €27,000 to social welfare there and might be returned to England if she did not withdraw what she had said about him.

The jury had however seen a tape of Ms Farrell telling the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission about the €27,000 and business difficulties in England, he said. That tape “plainly reflected the truth” and Ms Farrell had also told the Garda McAndrew inquiry into the murder probe about those matters, he said.

There was evidence gardai tried to discover the identity of Ms Farrell’s male companion on the night of December 22/23rd 1996 when she said she saw the man on the road near Schull. It was important to try and corroborate that sighting, he said.

The jury had also heard evidence from solicitor Ernest Cantillon who had said Ms Farrell had told him she was being harassed by Mr Bailey and had asked Ms Cantillon to write to Mr Bailey’s lawyers seeking that he would stop, counsel said.

The case continues.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times