Ian Bailey not involved in du Plantier death, he tells High Court

Bailey says he was inspired to become a reporter after reading All The President’s Men

Ian Bailey has today told the High Court his position is that he was not in any way involved in the killing of French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in late 1996.

Cross-examined by Luán Ó Braonáin SC, for the State, Mr Bailey said he has taken a civil action against the State and he disagreed that the question whether or not he was involved in the killing is not part of the case. He had been “falsely framed” and had come to court “to prosecute Garda corruption”, he said.

Mr Bailey said he believed gardaí regarded him as a suspect from either December 26th or 27th, 1996, when he saw two gardaí “scrutinising” him in a shop in Schull. He agreed he had scratches on his hands on that occasion.

In retrospect, he believed one of those gardaí, since deceased Det Garda Bartholomew O’Leary, “who described himself as Cracker”, thought he had “got the killer”.


When hair and other samples were later taken from him, he experienced “a growing sense” there was “something going on” and he was “chosen to be targeted”.

He agreed he did not know Marie Farrell, a shopkeeper in Schull, in late December 1996. The jury has been told Ms Farrell will claim she was put under pressure by gardaí to make false complaints that Mr Bailey harassed her.

Mr Ó Braonáin said the focus of Mr Bailey’s claim that gardaí manufactured evidence relates to matters involving Ms Farrell, and the jury would hear from her later.

When counsel suggested the core of a Garda investigation is acquisition of information, Mr Bailey said it should be “factual” information. He accepted gardaí will, during investigations, be provided with information and will inquire into that, make inquiries and seek information themselves and test information.

When counsel suggested the investigation process would also involve raising suspicions, Mr Bailey said that was fine, except when suspicions are raised “on false grounds”. A senior garda told Paris Match magazine they knew from day one who the killer was, he said.

Newspaper articles

Mr Bailey agreed he had written some newspaper articles related to the killing but could not recall whether he mentioned in those that he was a suspect himself.

He agreed people can be suspects irrespective of innocence or guilt, but said the category of suspect was “put on him” and it was only in that regard he accepted he was a suspect.

Yesterday was the fifth day of his action against the Garda Commissioner and the State, who deny claims of wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault arising from the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd, 1996.

Earlier, under detailed cross-examination about his claims of a career in journalism since the 1970s, Mr Bailey rejected counsel’s suggestion that the samples of his work provided were inconsistent with his having a “serious track record” in journalism.

There was other material and, until he came to Ireland, he was making a living as a self-employed journalist, he said. He agreed he had not substantiated his claim of having earned some Stg£30,000 in 1982. He said he earned substantial sums from national newspapers, and lesser sums from other media all mounted up that year.

Asked whether an article in which he described peace activists in England being “ambushed” by “the forces of law and order” represented his own view, he said his sympathies “are always with people who are victims and underdogs”.

He said he came to Ireland in 1991 “to get away from the rat race”. Asked whether he had debts then, he said he may have had following his divorce but denied these were some “tens of thousands”.

He got a job on a farm in Waterford scaring crows and later went to west Cork where he got a job in a fish factory in Schull. He agreed he was on welfare benefit and community employment schemes for a number of periods between 1992 and 1996 but denied this was inconsistent with his claim of a continuous career in journalism.

‘Happy time’

He was helping his partner Jules Thomas with murals she was painting, writing about local things and would go to music sessions where he played the bodhrán if other musicians were happy for him to do so. “It was a happy time,” he said.

Asked did he take a drink, he said he did and enjoyed it. Asked did drink “suit” him, he said certain drinks did not.

He said he decided in 1995 to return to full-time journalism, and denied counsel’s suggestion the model of operation he intended to follow was not realistic for west Cork.

He agreed he was probably mistaken to have said he was aged 14 when he read a book about the Watergate spying scandal after counsel told him the book, All The President's Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, was not published until 1974. That meant Mr Bailey must have been 17 or 18 when he read it, and not about 14 as he told the jury last week, counsel said.

Mr Bailey said he must have been mistaken about his age but he read the book and it had “inspired me” to pursue a career in journalism.

Mr Bailey told counsel today he had had an interest in journalism from when he was in school, had rang a local newspaper and had had articles printed in that while still at school.

He agreed a man whom he had worked with in Cheltenham was a freelance correspondent but said that man had worked for central television and several newspapers. Mr Bailey said he was an accredited correspondent which meant newspapers recognised him and used his material.

He had included a letter of accreditation from the Daily Mail and other organisations in a file that was available, Mr Bailey added.

He agreed another article entitled ‘Maggie’s Call for Unity - ‘Spirit’ Can Make Us Great Again’, about a speech by Mrs Thatcher to local Tories in Cheltenham, which was published in a local newspaper in 1982, was not an exclusive.

Counsel said that was the only article provided to the State for the year 1982 despite Mr Bailey having said 1982 was a bumper year for him.

Mr Bailey denied he was exaggerating how well he did in 1982.

Another article about comedian Eric Morecambe’s death in a Cheltenham hospital was not an exclusive but he was in a better position than other reporters to have reported that, he said.

He knew the manager of the local theatre where Mr Morecambe had performed just before his death. He agreed Mr Morecambe’s death was a national story in the UK and described the comedian as “a national treasure”.

He was not certain about the dates he had become indentured to another journalist in Gloucester, he thought it was about 1976 and he would have joined the National Union of Journalists about then.

There may have been a period when he was not a member of the NUJ but he was not sure, he said.

He did not always get his byline name on stories he had contributed to as it depended on the policy of the relevant newspaper, he added.

He had also contributed to TV and written stories concerning the GCHQ spying centre in Cheltenham. One “nice little story” was about a man in Cheltenham who had caught a large pike, he confirmed.

He had kept scrapbooks of stories he had written but they contained only a “spot sample” of a larger body of work. He would not say the material was either the best or worst of the material he had written.

Earlier, he agreed he had some experience of court and legal processes as a result of having given evidence during his libel actions against various newspapers, his journalism training and because he had pursued law degrees.

The case continues before Mr Justice John Hedigan and a jury.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times