French judge in Toscan du Plantier case revisits west Cork

Judge Patrick Gachon met with senior gardaí and witnesses during the eight-day trip

Sophie Toscan du Plantier: murdered at her Schull holiday home in 1996

Sophie Toscan du Plantier: murdered at her Schull holiday home in 1996

 

A French magistrate investigating the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier has visited west Cork to meet witnesses in the case as part of his inquiry into the 1996 killing, The Irish Times has learned.

Judge Patrick Gachon spent eight days in the area earlier this month meeting witnesses and revisiting where Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered at her holiday home outside Schull.

Judge Gachon arrived in Cork on October 1st, three days after a team of French policemen arrived in Ireland to carry out interviews, and he spent eight days in the area directing inquiries.

It’s understood that Judge Gachon, whose visit was not announced by the French authorities, had a meeting with senior garda investigating the 1996 murder before then beginning his own inquiries.

Among the aspects of the case he examined was a hypothesis that the man twice arrested for questioning about the killing, Ian Bailey walked from his home to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s house.

Judge Gachon directed one of his team to walk by road from the Prairie, Liscaha, Schull where Mr Bailey lives to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s holiday home at Dreenane, Toormore some 4.1km away.

He then directed the team member to walk the 2.6km from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s holiday home at Dreenane to Kealfadda Bridge and from there back to the Prairie where Mr Bailey lives and he timed both walks.

Members of the campaign group, the Association for the Truth about the Murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier had previously carried out that experiment and timed the various journeys.

A post-mortem was unable to give an exact time for the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier but gardaí believe she was murdered in the early hours of December 23rd, 1996.

Mr Bailey, who was arrested in 1997 and 1998 for questioning about the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, has denied any involvement in the killing or ever making any admissions that he killed her.

The hypothesis about walking times between the Prairie and Dreenane that Judge Gachon sought to test is reliant on statements made by Mr Bailey’s partner, Jules Thomas and witness, Marie Farrell.

However both statements have since been retracted and denied by both Ms Thomas and Ms Farrell under oath in an unsuccessful High Court case for damages against the state brought by Mr Bailey.

Ms Thomas told gardaí in her original statement that she believed that she heard Mr Bailey get up an hour or so after they had gone to bed around 12.30am on the morning December 23rd, 1996.

Ms Thomas told gardaí it was not unusual for Mr Bailey to get up in the middle of the night and go to work in the Studio, a then unoccupied house owned by her family, 200 metres from the Prairie.

In her first statement to gardaí read out at Mr Bailey’s Circuit Court libel action against several papers, Ms Thomas said that although her “recollection was poor, I am almost 100pc sure”.

“I was in sleep and Ian was tossing and turning and then he got up from the bed — I would estimate that he got up about an hour later. He got up easy so as not to wake me,” she told gardaí.

“He did not say anything to me. I don’t recall his absence during further sleep. I did not take any note of his leaving the bed as this was common for him to do. I can’t recall Ian coming back to bed.”

Mr Bailey testified in the libel action that he got up to write a piece for The Sunday Tribune and he did so in the Studio but he said that it happened around 8am and not in the middle of the night.

Mr Bailey has also pointed out that Ms Thomas’s first statement to the gardaí was made under duress and that she had resiled from the statement in correspondence to the gardaí as early as 1998.

The second statement that Judge Gachon’s hypothesis is reliant upon is one made by witness, Marie Farrell that she saw a man at Kealfadda Bridge sometime after 3am on the morning of the murder.

Ms Farrell later identified this man to gardaí as Mr Bailey and she confirmed this in Mr Bailey’s libel action against the newspapers in Cork Circuit Court in 2003 but she has since denied this was true.

Last December, she told Mr Bailey’s High Court case against the state that she was coerced and induced by gardaí into wrongly and falsely identifying the man at Kealfadda as Mr Bailey.