Forensic dissection of events in Ian Bailey’s past

Events spanning almost 60 years picked over

"You seem unhappy," Luán Ó Braonáin said. "I am unhappy," Ian Bailey replied from the witness box.

The State’s barrister had begun to refer to books of his diaries and private writings. Bailey, his voice raised slightly, saw it as an “absolute invasion of privacy” and took issue with Ó Braonáin producing the material, which the court has heard was seized by gardaí during a search of his home, “like a magician taking a rabbit out of a hat”.

“Just get on with it,” Bailey said.

The two men had been facing one another for well over 20 hours by the time yesterday's sitting began. In the eight-day cross-examination, they have forensically picked over events spanning almost 60 years, from Bailey's schooling in England and his first reading of All the President's Men to his arrival in Ireland, his arrests in connection with the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and the 18 years that followed. It has been visibly tiring and occasionally tense. Ó Braonáin, in his black gown, stands with his right leg propped up on the seat behind him.


Bailey, pressed into a witness box that wasn’t designed for a man of 6ft 4ins, leans into the microphone, an orange highlighter at the ready, his left hand free to emphasise a point.

His writings were the morning’s focus. The earliest diary entry was from 1989. Bailey was 32 and living in Cheltenham. He wrote of having debts of £30,000, of thinking about selling his house in the English town. “I feel self-loathing, a hatred of myself. I must expunge these feelings,” he wrote.

Less material life

Two years later he moved to Cork. He was looking for a simpler, less material life. On December 31st, 1991, while working at a fish factory in Schull, he wrote “I object to fools and arrogant idiots” and, later, “I feel my energies have waned.”

In June of the same year, he recorded being in the greenhouse, “smoking a Wet-Day J.”

Was “J” a joint, Ó Braonáin asked.

“Yeah, that’s probably right,” Bailey replied.

“If there are Wet-Day Js, are there Dry-Day Js? . . . There may be Cloudy-Day Js?”

“Or No J days,” Bailey replied, to laughter from the public gallery. He did smoke marijuana occasionally, he said, but that was not unusual in west Cork, especially when “members of the legal profession used to come down”. More laughter. Asked had he smoked up to six joints a day, he said they were “very, very small” and he had not smoked them in years.

Looking at his writings reminded Bailey of things he’d forgotten about. “I’m writing about the garden,” he said, his eye having fallen on one of his entries. “I’m likening it to a girl child going into maidenhood and her body filling with the fruits of nature.”

"Let's just stick to the questions you're being asked," Mr Justice John Hedigan interjected.

In an entry marked June 18th, Bailey wrote: “I think I’ve been drinking too much for the last 20 years.”

In another, he wrote: “I often drink myself to sickness, even though I know it’s unwise.”

Bailey told the court he didn’t regularly drink to excess, but occasionally he did and in 2001 he managed to deal with it. The proceedings cover a long span of time. The evidence flits constantly from year to year, decade to decade, and then back again. The cars in the newspaper photos, taken at the time of Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder, look like relics of another time. In the black-and-white photographs Bailey is a 39-year-old with longish dark hair. Today he is 57, greying and slightly stooped.

‘Badly off course’

On December 31st, 1993, he wrote in a notebook that he was “badly off course” but could see a way out of it. This would require “vision and discipline”. “Obviously I’m not a saint,” he told the court. “But I’m trying to self-analyse and make myself a better human being.”

In January 1994, Bailey wrote: “I really feel I have lost my way somewhere.” And elsewhere: “I am directionless. I must re-create. It’s as if I need to be re-awakened.”

He wrote that on New Year’s Eve, “at the witching hour, I swung a blow at a boy who was bothering me.” The incident occurred outside a bar in Schull. In court, Bailey said he didn’t hit the young man but “shooed him away”. In a March 1994 entry, he wrote: “Why should someone of undoubted intelligence behave in such a foolish and self-destructive fashion?” He went on: “I know the core of me wants to shine and not to be seen as a foolish bowsie.”

“This is critical stuff,” Bailey said. “I’m not in a state of denial about my own character.”

In August 1991, while in Dublin, he wrote of having “no home or base” and “no money”. He described sitting in St Stephen’s Green, feeling angry and depressed. “I have always been an outsider,” he wrote.

Under re-examination by his own barrister, senior counsel Martin Giblin, Bailey said that in his writings he indulged in "a lot of critical self-analysis" but also wrote about a lot of other things. His writings were "a method of creativity" and there were other features of life that were positive and which he didn't put into his diaries, including his gardening and music.

He knew he had a problem with alcohol, and in 2001, after he and Jules Thomas had parted, he attended 120 AA meetings and addressed the problem. She came back to him after that. "I've always been consciously trying to improve myself," he said. "I'm my hardest critic."

Shortly after 3.40pm, having spent nine days giving evidence, Bailey left the witness box.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times