Ian Bailey denies telling man ‘that was me’

James McKenna was ‘numb with shock’ after speaking with Bailey about Schull murder

The court heard about  various writings by Ian Bailey, including  a shorthand note of the lyrics of the Eagles’ song Desperado. Photograph: Courts Collins

The court heard about various writings by Ian Bailey, including a shorthand note of the lyrics of the Eagles’ song Desperado. Photograph: Courts Collins


Ian Bailey has denied before the High Court he asked another man whether he knew about “the murder in Schull” before telling the man, with a smirk: “That was me”.

Mr Bailey was being asked about statements to gardaí made by James McKenna stating he was in “absolutely no doubt” the man whom he spoke to was “admitting to murder”.

Mr McKenna, from Northern Ireland, said in statements he and his wife had a conversation with Mr Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas in the Galley Inn pub in Schull on the night of April 8th, 1997.

During that conversation, Mr Bailey had asked him had he heard about the murder in Schull, Mr McKenna said. He said he told Mr Bailey he heard about the murder on the news in Northern Ireland and Mr Bailey looked at him “in the eye” and, in a “deliberate voice”, said: “That was me.”

Mr Bailey was “smirking”, he added.

In his statements, Mr McKenna said he was “numb with shock”. He later contacted the gardaí and made statements.

The statements were read during the continuing cross-examination of Mr Bailey in his action against the Garda Commissioner and State. They deny his claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy arising from the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French film-maker whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.

Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in her murder.

Yesterday, Luán O Braonáin, for the State, put to Mr Bailey that Mr McKenna’s statements were significant and among the reasons grounding Mr Bailey’s second arrest by garda on January 27th, 1998.

Mr Bailey agreed he and Ms Thomas had had a conversation with Mr McKenna and his wife in the Galley Inn, but said he always denied making the comments attributed to him by Mr McKenna.

When counsel put to Mr Bailey gardaí were entitled to also take into consideration he had told journalist Helen Callanan and a local boy, Malachy Reid, he had killed Ms Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey said those were alleged informal admissions.

What he said to Ms Callanan was “a black joke” and what he had told Mr Reid was that other people were saying he had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he said.

Mr Bailey said the statements had to be considered in the context of other matters he was not allowed refer to and he was in a “David and Goliath” situation.

Mr Justice John Hedigan told the jury Mr Bailey was referring to an assessment of evidence made by the DPP’s office and to material grounding the French application for the extradition of Mr Bailey.

The court previously decided, to “balance” the sides, those materials should not be admitted into evidence and there was no “dark secret lurking” in the background, he said.

Asked about legal applications by the French authorities for documents relating to the murder investigation and extradition proceedings, he said he became aware of those from 2007, but was unaware exactly what documents were provided or that statements by Marie Farrell retracting previous statements concerning him were provided.

Asked whether he had written the words “back in print again, hip, hip hurray” on a piece of paper dated June 30th, 1997, included among items discovered, he said several times he wasn’t sure. He said there was “something strange” about it.

Counsel carried out a detailed comparison of various individual letters in that message with letters in various writings of Mr Bailey. Those included poems about seeing a rat, a shorthand note of the lyrics of the Eagles’ song Desperado and various reflections including the words “broken pieces of former self” which Mr Bailey said was a reference to how he felt after his first arrest.

Mr Bailey agreed there were similarities between the letters in his writings and the “back in print...” text and accepted it was “probably” his writing, but added there was “something strange” about it.

He rejected counsel’s suggestion “back in print...” related to a story being written for the Sunday Independent about his situation, published in late July 1997, and showed “how much you were enjoying the attention”.

Mr Bailey said he was led to believe the article would be sympathetic but that was “a false illusion”.

Counsel also suggested various other writings of Mr Bailey suggested his life before the murder was unhappy and not full of “joie de vivre” and he had given an impression of a continuum of journalism work when that was not the case.

Mr Bailey said he had been unsuccessful trying to get some jobs and his jobs included work on a fish-farm and landscape gardening.

Life is not always happy but what happened to him was “everything was turned upside down”.

He agreed his writings included statements “life’s a bummer when you’re unknown and unpublished” and there was “nothing I have touched in my life I haven’t ruined or hasn’t fallen apart”.

“However unhappy I might have been before has no bearing on the misery I’ve suffered directly as a result of this false accusation,” he said.

Mr Bailey said he was aware Marie Farrell had given media interviews alleging he had intimidated and threatened her.

After she had alleged he intimidated her on a date when he was in his solicitor’s office in Cork, his solicitor Frank Buttimer wrote to her in March 2004 asking her to retract her claims and not repeat them or legal proceedings would be taken.

Counsel said solicitor Ernest Cantillon replied on behalf of Ms Farrell on April 19th 2004 stating she could not respond to allegations about unspecified articles and programmes and alleging Mr Bailey had engaged in threatening and abusive behaviour towards Ms Farrell. The letter refused any retraction or undertaking and said a counter claim would be lodged if Mr Bailey’s “abusive” behaviour persists.

When counsel asked about contacts between Mr Bailey and Ms Farrell after they met in her ice cream parlour in Schull on June 28th 1997, Mr Bailey said he met her in his solicitor’s office and saw her around Schull after she “came over to the good” in April 2005. He believed there were allegations his partner, Jules Thomas, had gone in and said “change your statement” but could be wrong.

He believed, sometime after his second arrest in January 1998, Ms Farrell phoned his home and had spoken to Ms Thomas and asked to speak to him but he refused. “I didn’t want anything to do with her.”

Ms Farrell later gave evidence adverse to him in his libel proceedings against various media and he considered those proceedings were “hijacked” by the gardaí, he said.

The jury heard Mr Buttimer had written to Ms Farrell on September 29th 2005 stating Mr Bailey was deeply grateful for her courage in adopting the position she had and which Mr Buttimer could now state to gardaí.

The hearing continues.