Retired garda denies making no attempt to verify Bailey’s account of events

High Court told there was nothing of a forensic nature to link Ian Bailey to murder scene

Retired Garda detective inspector Michael Kelleher leaving the Four Courts after giving evidence in the High Court action for damages by Ian Bailey. Photograph: Courts Collins

A retired Garda detective inspector has denied that gardaí made no effort to verify the truth of Ian Bailey's account of various matters, including how he got scratches on his hands and arms, during their investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Michael Kelleher also said there was “nothing untoward” in the conduct of an interview with Mr Bailey at Bandon Garda station after his first arrest on February 10th, 1997, in connection with the murder. He denied Mr Bailey’s claim that he put his leg on the table where Mr Bailey was sitting during an interview on that date and “shoved” his crotch towards Mr Bailey’s face.

He agreed there was no forensic evidence to link Mr Bailey to the murder scene. There were more than 40 suspects during the investigation but, when he left the investigation some four months after he joined it, the only “genuine” suspect was Mr Bailey, he said.

He was giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Ms du Plantier whose body was found on the morning of December 23rd, 1996. The defendants deny all the claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy to manufacture evidence.


The case resumed on its 38th day yesterday before an 11-member jury as one of the jurors is no longer available.

The court was told that Virginia Oliver, a daughter of Mr Bailey's partner Jules Thomas, had made a statement saying Mr Bailey was violent towards her mother, who had gone to hospital after an incident in April 1996 where Ms Oliver said she saw her mother with her right eye swollen and bleeding, large clumps of hair missing from her head, a bitemark and bruising.

Ms Oliver had also said in her statement Mr Bailey had made a pass at her on Christmas Day 1995. She also said she could verify that Mr Bailey had killed turkeys and that she had seen scratches on his hands after he cut down a Christmas tree.

Saffron Thomas, another daughter of Ms Thomas, had also made a statement relating to Mr Bailey killing turkeys and cutting down the tree, the court heard.

When Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, suggested that Ms Oliver’s statement concerning the scratches was “entirely believable” given the antipathy she clearly displayed towards Mr Bailey, Mr Kelleher agreed Ms Oliver did not appear to like Mr Bailey. He said he would consider the statement but the “global picture” must also be considered, not one or two things. His recollection was there were some inconsistencies between what the sisters said, he added.

He agreed gardaí had asked people if they saw scratches on Mr Bailey’s hands and arms before the murder, but disagreed that they were specifically directed to do that in light of statements from two men that they saw scratches on his hands on December 24th, 1996. It was an important matter, he said.

He agreed some elements of a description by Marie Farrell of a man she saw on December 21st, 1996, outside her shop in Schull, such as his being 5ft 10in, did not match Mr Bailey. He considered other characteristics, such as the description that the man was "weird looking", could match Mr Bailey. Mr Bailey "is a fine handsome man at times and at other times, he's weird". He said every effort was made to gather evidence. No hasty decisions were made to arrest people for murder, he added.

He said he accepted Mr Bailey had told the truth about some matters and accepted he had cut down a Christmas tree. If someone told him they got scratches from a Christmas tree and other people said they were briar marks, he would think that was significant. The body was found in a location where there were briars, he added.

Earlier, Mr Kelleher told Luán O Braonáin SC, for the State, that he was in the criminal investigation section of the Garda Technical Bureau for several years and was based in Cork from 1985. He was involved in every major criminal investigation in the Cork and Kerry divisions and joined the du Plantier investigation from December 23rd 1996.

He believed the body of Ms Toscan du Plantier was still at the scene that day and a postmortem was carried out by then State pathologist, Dr John Harbison, the following day. He agreed Dr Harbison was unable to establish the time of death and said this was due to several factors, including that it was very cold and an outdoor scene.

He set up an incident room in Bantry Garda station and delegated different functions. In any investigation, members would nominate suspects who would be inquired into, he said.

Any material pertaining to a particular suspect would go into the relevant file and typed copies of original material would be put on the file as working material. The original handwritten manuscript material would also be filed.

Ms du Plantier was last seen on December 22nd at another house and her body was found about 10.30am the next morning by her nearest neighbour, Shirley Foster, at Toormore. Some members of Ms du Plantier’s family, but not her husband, came over to Ireland following the murder, he said.

He agreed hair and other samples were taken from Mr Bailey and there was nothing of a forensic nature to link Mr Bailey to the murder scene. This was an outdoor scene in winter and that presented difficulties, he said.

The case continues today.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times