Fifty-four suspects identified in Toscan du Plantier murder investigation

Ian Bailey remains ‘person of interest’ for gardaí investigating murder of mother of one

Jules Thomas and Ian Bailey leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins

Jules Thomas and Ian Bailey leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins

 

A total of 54 suspects or persons of interest were identified by gardaí investigating the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996, the officer now heading the investigation revealed.

Chief Supt Tom Hayes said the nomination of someone as a suspect or “a person of interest in modern parlance” did not require a very high threshold and the focus would be broad rather than narrow and would include people who would have had contact with the victim.

Ian Bailey remained “a person of interest” 18 years on from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder as “the facts of the case had not changed”, apart from witness Marie Farrell disputing her original statement that she had seen Mr Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the killing, Chief Supt Hayes said.

There were reasonable grounds to treat Mr Bailey as a suspect, including his history of violence towards his partner, Jules Thomas, and statements from witnesses that he had scratches on his hands, which gardaí believed the killer would have had because of briars at the murder scene.

Suspicion about Mr Bailey also stemmed from the fact that there were inaccuracies in his account of his movements on the night of December 21st-22nd, 1996 – the night before the killing – and information was also given to gardaí about apparent admissions by him to the murder.

He believed there were reasonable grounds to suspect Mr Bailey and the suspicion was amplified by Mr Bailey stating during Garda interviews that he was missing from his house for a number of hours on December 22nd-23rd, the night of the murder.

This had been confirmed in a statement from Ms Thomas and, while Mr Bailey had offered an explanation, it had not been corroborated, said Chief Supt Hayes. He has headed the investigation into the murder since 2010.

Mr Bailey was not the target of formal Garda surveillance as alleged by whistleblower John Wilson but was the subject of passive recording of incidents and the number of entries in the Garda Pulse system reflected this, Chief Supt Hayes added.

“I can say categorically there was no surveillance or no formal surveillance on Mr Bailey since I arrived in the west Cork division and, looking back, there was no formal surveillance. It was passive recording of incidents where somebody would have met or seen him and recorded it on Pulse.”

Chief Supt Hayes said there was one entry or collation on Mr Bailey in 1999 and five in 2000 and these numbers were “terribly low – that level of collation would be unacceptable in relation to an active criminal”.

Many of the entries related to Mr Bailey’s signing on at Garda stations while on bail. He instanced 2010, when 11 of the 20 entries related to bail matters, and 2011, when 15 of 24 entries related to signing on after he had been granted bail on a European arrest warrant issued by France.

The Garda file on the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier remained open and was reviewed regularly by a team which was not involved in the original investigation but was familiar with the file. If new information came to light, it was fully followed up, the court heard.

Chief Supt Hayes said gardaí had investigated a German national who had been living in west Cork at the time of the murder and later took his own life in Germany, after they received reports that he had left a suicide note.

Gardaí made contact with the German authorities amid suggestions that the man’s suicide might have been related to the death of Ms Toscan du Plantier but there was no suicide note, he said.