Ian Bailey made ‘regrettable black joke’ about killing

Tells court he was ‘shocked’ Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s husband did not travel to Ireland

Mary Carolan Ian Bailey has said he made a "regrettable black joke" to the effect he killed French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his career as a journalist.

Luán O Braonáin said journalist Helen Callanan will say that after she told Mr Bailey around late January 1997 it was being said he had murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey said words to the effect: “Of course, yes I did, I killed her to resurrect my career as a journalist”.

That was “a regrettable black joke”, “very foolish of me” and “very unwise”, Mr Bailey told the High Court.

When Ms Callanan told him it was being said he was the murderer, he asked who was saying that, it was very damaging, seriously defamatory and might be worth €20,000 to him as a result.

He believed he also said words to the effect: “Yeah, it was me, I killed her to resurrect my career as a journalist” but was unsure if he made those comments over one or more conversations with Ms Callanan.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's body was found in west Cork on December 23rd, 1996.

Mr O Braonáin said Ms Callanan, news editor of the Sunday Tribune in 1996 and 1997, reported Mr Bailey’s comments to gardaí prior to Mr Bailey’s arrest on February 10th, 1997, in connection with the murder and also made a statement in that regard.

The State was contending those words, and several other matters, gave rise to a reasonable suspicion by gardaí concerning Mr Bailey, he said.

The other matters included scratches on his arms; violence to his partner Jules Thomas; inconsistent accounts of his movements between December 21st and 23rd, 1996; his exchanges with gardaí; and material provided by him to the media, counsel said.

Mr Bailey said he did not accept there were reasonable grounds for his arrest on February 10th, 1997.

He said "very suspect" information came from France after the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier but gardaí never seriously inquired into that.

He was becoming aware, as “an investigative journalist”, of material in France and he and another woman had expressed their views to gardaí­ in that regard. He denied he regarded himself as a form of “superjournalist” who knew more than other journalists.

He believed there was an “overfocus” on himself by gardaí­ and matters in France should have been looked into more seriously.

“I believe to this day there is a French connection,” he said.

Mr Bailey said he regarded as “quite shocking” and “very strange” that Ms Toscan du Plantier’s husband, Daniel, had not come to west Cork to assist gardaí­ in the immediate aftermath of her murder to assist gardaí and identify her body, because he was too busy with business commitments.

When counsel referred to “smoke and mirrors”, Mr Bailey said he was told a lot of information from France concerning the victim’s private life, including that she was leaving her husband and had been involved in a “catfight” with her husband’s mistress.

The cross-examination of Mr Bailey continued yesterday in his action for damages against the Garda Commissioner and State arising from the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

The defendants reject all his claims including wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and conspiracy.

Questioned about his first arrest on February 10th, 1997, Mr Bailey said he was “absolutely certain” he was not told his rights by arresting gardaí when they came to his home at the Prairie, Schull, that day.

After a diary document in his own writing was provided to him related to the arrest which stated: “told my rights”, he accepted he must have been mistaken in his recollection.

When counsel put to him he had falsely stated a Garda made a “death threat” to the effect that Mr Bailey would be found in a ditch with a bullet in the back of his head, Mr Bailey said it did happen. He denied gardaí had not adopted a harsh and abrupt tone when arresting him and he had constructed a wrong narrative concerning the events.

Counsel asked about a statement made by a local boy, Malachy Reid, on February 6th, 1997, in which the boy said Mr Bailey told him “out of the blue” while giving him a lift: “I went up there with a rock one night and bashed her f***ing brains in.”

Mr Bailey said what he told the boy was “they are saying” that he (Mr Bailey) had done that.

Earlier, when counsel suggested the Sunday Tribune had removed “lascivious” details about Ms Toscan du Plantier’s private life from articles supplied by him to the newspaper in January 1997, Mr Bailey said he was not sure what was removed.

The case continues before Mr Justice Hedigan and a jury.