From Paris to west Cork and back: The story of the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation

Murder of French film producer near Schull in 1996 has never been solved

Du Plantier, a film producer, lived in Paris with her husband, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who was president of the French film-promotion agency Unifrance, and her only child by her first marriage, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud. She had bought the property in Drinane in 1993 as somewhere to retreat to.

When she was found she was dressed in her nightclothes and had been badly beaten. She had died from multiple head injuries.

Ian Bailey, an English journalist who had moved to west Co Cork in 1991 and later met, and moved in with, Jules Thomas, a Welsh-born artist, soon became a suspect. Bailey was arrested and questioned, and in September 1997 a file was sent to the director of public prosecutions, who directed that no charges be brought. Bailey has always denied any involvement in the killing, and he has claimed that the Garda tried to frame him.

The story starts in 1991 when Bailey moves to west Cork.


1991 to 1999

1991: English journalist, Ian Bailey moves to Ireland and settles in West Cork where he meets Welsh artist, Jules Thomas and sets up home with her and her three daughters at the Prairie, Liscaha, Schull.

1993: French film producer, Sophie Toscan du Plantier buys a holiday home in the isolated townland of Drinane near Toormore outside Schull and she uses it as a quiet retreat from her busy life in Paris where she is married to French film mogul, Daniel Toscan du Plantier.

1995: Marie Farrell moves to Schull with her husband, Chris Farrell and their five children from Glanmire near Cork city following their return to Ireland from London and they open a craft shop and ice cream parlour in the West Cork village.

1996, December 23rd: The badly beaten body of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) is found in her night clothes near the laneway leading to her holiday home by her neighbour, Shirley Foster. Gardaí, under Supt JP Twomey of Bantry Garda Station, begin a murder inquiry.

1997, January 11th: Marie Farrell rings Bandon Garda Station from a public phone box in Cork city, using the alias Fiona, to tell them that she saw a man by Kealfadda Bridge around 3am on the night that Toscan du Plantier was murdered.

1997, January 20th: Chief Supt Noel Smith of West Cork Garda Division issues an appeal on Crimeline asking Fiona to contact them in confidence at Bandon Garda Station regarding her information about seeing a man at Kealfadda Bridge on December 23rd, 1996.

1997, January 21st: Marie Farrell again rings Bandon Garda Station regarding her sighting of the man at Kealfadda Bridge. She again uses the alias Fiona for this call which was made from a public phone box in Leap in West Cork.

1997, January 24th: Marie Farrell makes a third phone call, again using the name Fiona, to tell gardaí that she will not be calling into Bandon Garda Station to meet the investigation team as they requested. Gardaí trace the call to the Farrell home at Crew Bay in Schull.

1997, February 4th: Schoolboy, Malachi Reed gives a statement to gardaí that when giving him a lift home, Ian Bailey told him that he killed Toscan du Plantier, saying that he "went up there with a rock and bashed her fucking brains out".

1997, February 10th: Ian Bailey is arrested at his home for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. He is taken to Bandon Garda Station where he is photographed by freelance photographer Mike Browne going into the Garda station. He is later released without charge.

His partner, Jules Thomas is also arrested at the Prairie and taken to Bandon Garda Station. She too is later released without charge. She later says that Det Supt Dermot Dwyer meets her in the station and tells her that "the forensics will sort it out".

1997, April 17th: State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison tells an inquest into Toscan du Plantier's death that she died from multiple injuries including laceration of the brain and a fracture of the skull, caused by a blunt instrument.

1997, September 29th: State Solicitor for West Cork, Malachy Boohig sends a 2,000-page file on the murder to the DPP. He receives a letter back on 8th October from law officer, Robert Sheehan with a series of questions for gardaí and no charges are brought.

1997, December 18th: Fine Gael spokesman on Justice Jim Higgins claims in the Dáil that a series of requests by Toscan du Plantier's family for information on the murder file has been ignored but this is denied by Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue. O'Donoghue confirms the Department of Justice had received "a request for mutual assistance in a criminal matter" from the French authorities in April at a time when the "Rainbow Coalition" government was in power. He said the French were seeking "very sensitive material relating to the Garda investigation" and "clearly it would be important not to prejudice the Garda investigation or any subsequent prosecution by the premature disclosure of information to third parties".

1998, January 27th: Ian Bailey is arrested a second time at the Prairie and again brought to Bandon Garda Station for questioning about the murder of Toscan du Plantier. He is again released without charge.

1998, February 10th: O'Donoghue insists in the Dáil that there is no possibility of handing over the Garda file on the murder to the French authorities while the investigation was ongoing and there was a possibility of charges arising.

1998, March 9th: State Solicitor for West Cork, Malachy Boohig attends a meeting in Bandon with senior gardaí after which he says he is approached by Det Chief Supt Sean Camon who asks him to get O Donoghue to get the DPP to charge Bailey.

1999, March: French film maker Guy Girard comes forward to tell gardaí how Sophie Toscan du Plantier had told him in early December 1996 about a friend she had in Ireland called Ian Bailey who was exploring themes of violence in his writings.

2000 to 2009

2000, September 22nd: Jules Thomas is arrested a second time at her home at the Prairie for questioning about the murder while her daughter, Fenella is arrested at her rented flat off Shandon Street in Cork. Both are later released without charge.

2001, August 18th: Ian Bailey assaults Jules Thomas at their home. He is arrested at Cork Airport and later charged and prosecuted. He receives a three-month suspended sentence at Skibbereen District Court. He later admits it was his third time assaulting Thomas.

2001, November: Solicitor at the DPP's office, Robert Sheehan writes a 44-page analysis of the Garda evidence in the case against Bailey and is highly critical of aspects of the Garda investigation before concluding the evidence does not warrant a prosecution.

2002, January: Commissioner Pat Byrne appoints a review team under Chief Supt Austin McNally to examine the Garda investigation into the murder of Toscan du Planter following Robert Sheehan's highly critical analysis of the original investigation.

2002, December 19th: Sophie Toscan du Plantier's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol and her son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud begin a civil action against Ian Bailey for the wrongful death of the French film producer.

2003, March: A new file is submitted to the DPP following the McNally review but the DPP, James Hamilton, again decides against a prosecution due to lack of evidence but says that the matter will be reviewed if any new evidence comes to light.

2003, December: Ian Bailey starts a libel action at Cork Circuit Court against eight newspapers over their linking of him to the murder of Toscan du Plantier. He loses six of the actions but wins against two papers. Some eight witnesses testify for Bailey and 20 testify for the newspapers, among them Marie Farrell who proves a key witness, confirming her statement to gardaí that she saw a man she later learned was Ian Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder. In his judgement, Judge Patrick Moran comments that it appears from the media interviews that he gave after his first arrest "that Bailey is a man who likes a certain amount of notoriety, that he likes perhaps to be in the limelight, that he likes a bit of self-publicity."

2004: Ian Bailey sends a solicitor's letter threatening legal action against Marie Farrell if she does not retract comments she made about him in the media following the conclusion of the libel action. Farrell sends a solicitor's letter in response refusing to retract her comments.

2004, March 1st: Ian Bailey's solicitor Frank Buttimer says he learns that Marie Farrell is lying about Ian Bailey when she makes a complaint to gardaí that he threatened her in Schull at a time when Bailey was attending a consultation with him at his office.

2005, April: Marie Farrell contacts Buttimer and alleges she was coerced by gardaí into making a false statement incriminating Ian Bailey and recants her statement that the man that she saw at Kealfadda Bridge was Ian Bailey.

2005, October: Buttimer writes to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell who asks Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy to carry out an inquiry into the investigation and a review is carried out by a team of officers under Assistant Commissioner Ray McAndrew.

2006, April 25th: Sophie Toscan du Plantier's brother Bertrand Bouniol confirms that his parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and his nephew, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, have withdrawn their civil action against Ian Bailey for the unlawful killing of his sister.

2007: Ian Bailey begins a High Court appeal over his libel action against the newspapers. The case is settled after three days with the newspapers acknowledging that they never intended to suggest that he murdered Toscan du Plantier.

2007, May 1st: Ian Bailey lodges a High Court papers suing the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, conspiracy, assault, battery, trespass to the person, harassment, intimidation and breach of his constitutional rights

2007, November: Relatives and friends of Toscan du Plantier form a lobby group in France, The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (ASSOPH) to campaign for justice.

2008, June: French magistrate, Judge Patrick Gachon, recently appointed to investigate the murder, orders the exhumation of Toscan du Plantier's body from the family plot at Combret in Lozere for a post-mortem and forensic examination by French scientists.

2008, July: DPP James Hamilton recommends no prosecution following the McAndrew Inquiry into the Garda handling of the original murder investigation. The inquiry involved the McAndrew team interviewing over 90 witnesses including 50 serving and retired gardaí.

Garda Commissioner Facthna Murphy directs that the Garda file on the murder be made available to the French authorities after DPP Hamilton confirms there are no charges arising from the McAndrew Inquiry.

2008, August: DPP James Hamilton confirms in a letter to Toscan du Plantier's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, that he has again decided not to bring any prosecution in the case in the absence of fresh evidence.

2009, June: Judge Gachon, as part of his investigation, travels with his colleague, Judge Nathalie Dutartre to West Cork to inspect the murder scene at Toormore and meet with gardaí investigating the killing.

2009, October 19th: Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald and Supt Liam Horgan, who was the family liaison officer at the time of the murder, travel to Paris where they are interviewed by Judge Gachon about the murder and the Garda investigation into the killing.

2010 to 2019

2010, February 19th: Judge Gachon issues a European Arrest Warrant for Ian Bailey's arrest in connection with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Under French law, French authorities can investigate crime against French citizens committed outside of France.

2010, February 21st: Ian Bailey confirms he is to appeal an order by the Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan refusing an application for discovery of the Garda file on the investigation for his High Court action for damages.

2010, April 23rd: Mr Justice Michael Peart endorses the European Arrest Warrant and gardaí arrest Ian Bailey at his home in Schull and they bring him to Bandon Garda Station from where he is brought before the High Court where he is granted bail pending a hearing of the extradition case.

2010, December: Ian Bailey graduates with a Honours Degree in Law from UCC. He later goes on to complete a Masters of Law at UCC in February 2013 after completing a thesis entitled, 'Policing the Police - Garda Accountability in Ireland'.

2011, March 18th: Mr Justice Michael Peart in the High Court rules in favour of the French authorities and orders Ian Bailey's surrender on foot of the European Arrest Warrant but grants him leave to appeal his decision to the Supreme Court.

2011, October: A team of French police investigators, including forensic scientists, visit Ireland where they interview and take statements from up to 30 witnesses including Marie Farrell as part of the French investigation into the killing.

2011, October 12th: Former DPP Eamonn Barnes writes to his successor, James Hamilton regarding a report he received in 1998 from State Solicitor for West Cork Malachy Boohig about an improper approach by a Garda seeking to get Bailey charged.

2012, March 1st: The Supreme Court rules in Bailey's favour in his appeal against extradition on a number of grounds including that the French authorities failed to specify that the arrest was for the purpose of charge.

2012, March: Ian Bailey makes a complaint to Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission regarding the Garda investigation into the murder.

2012, September: Lawyers for the Bouniols lodge a formal complaint against Ireland at the European Commission over the decision not to extradite Ian Bailey to France in connection with the murder of their daughter.

2012, October: The Bouniols's lawyers, Alain Spilliaert and James MacGuill, write to Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan seeking a cold case review of the murder and meet Det Supt Christy Mangan of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team in Dublin in November.

2012, October: Ian Bailey makes a formal complaint to the authorities that his phone has been illegally tapped for the past sixteen years and Judge Carroll Moran is appointed to investigate the complaint.

2013, May 10th: Mr Justice John Hedigan in the High Court orders that State give over documents to Ian Bailey in his civil action for damages and he describes aspects of the Garda investigation into the murder as "very disturbing".

2013, August: The French authorities award damages of €150,000 to the family of Toscan du Plantier for her death. The family's lawyer, Alain Spilliaert welcomes the award and says it will help fund the family's ongoing campaign for justice for their daughter.

2014, April 8th: Government confirms that the recording of phone calls at Bandon Garda Station as part of the investigation into Toscan du Plantier's murder will be investigated by former Supreme Court judge Niall Fennelly as part of his inquiry.

2014, October: Gsoc is ordered by the High Court to share material it has gathered in its investigation into complaints by Bailey against gardaí.

2014, November 4th: Ian Bailey begins his High Court action for damages against the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner. The jury of eight men and four women is told that the case will take six weeks to hear and is likely to finish before Christmas 2014.

2015, March 30th: Ian Bailey loses his civil action for damages against the Garda and the State. Bailey's solicitor Frank Buttimer says his client still believes he can prove that gardaí conspired to implicate him in the murder of Toscan du Plantier, and will consider an appeal over his unsuccessful court case,

2015, March 31st: The decision by the jury to dismiss Bailey's action is welcomed by the AGSI and by Toscan du Plantier's family who call on the Department of Justice to lift a suspension on co-operation with a French inquiry into the murder so French investigators can return to Ireland to interview witnesses.

2015, April 4th: Gsoc says it sees no benefit in re-interviewing witness Marie Farrell as part of its investigation into Bailey's complaint of Garda corruption after Farrell retracted a statement made to Gsoc during Bailey's High Court action.

2015, April 13th: The State moves to halt a High Court action for damages brought by Bailey's partner Jules Thomas alleging she was twice wrongfully arrested by gardaí in 1997 and 2000 as part of their investigation into the murder.

Barrister for the State David Lennon told Mr Justice John Hedigan that the State would bring an application to have Thomas's case struck out on grounds it was brought outside the applicable six years time limit set by the Statute of Limitations.

2015, May 12th: Ian Bailey is ordered to pay all of the legal costs, estimated at between €2 million and €5 million, of his failed civil action over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder.

2015, July 1st: Toscan du Plantier's son Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud writes to DPP Claire Loftus, requesting a meeting to outline his belief that the DPP should look again at bringing charges against Bailey "to definitely establish or invalidate the guiltiness of Mr Bailey".

2015, September 2nd: Witness James Camier dies. Camier made a statement to gardaí in 1998 that he met Jules Thomas on the morning of December 23rd, 1996, between 11am and 11.30am and that she told him that Bailey was busy reporting on the murder.

Camier's evidence contradicted both Bailey and Thomas who said they only learned of the murder at 1.40pm when informed of it by Eddie Cassidy but it supported similar statements by Caroline Leftwick and Paul O'Colmain that Bailey told them of the murder that morning.

2015, September 28th: Three French police officers arrive in Ireland to meet senior gardaí investigating the murder and to interview upwards of 20 civilian witnesses and retired gardaí who were involved in the original investigation. It is the second such visit to west Cork by French police.

2015, October 1st: Investigating French Judge Patrick Gachon visits west Cork for a second time and spends eight days in the area, meeting witnesses and revisiting where Toscan du Plantier was murdered.

2015, October 5th: Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer confirms that his client has lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the outcome of his unsuccessful High Court action against the State in relation to his arrest over the murder.

2015, November 4th: Mr Justice John Hedigan refuses an application by Thomas to recuse him from deciding any further matters in her separate action for damages against the Garda Commissioner and the State.

2015, December: Gachon sends his file of 17 volumes and statements from more than 40 witnesses to the public prosecutor for Paris François Molins following a six-and-a-half year investigation.

2016, January: The French authorities appoint Judge Nathalie Turquey to replace Judge Gachon in heading up the investigation into the killing. The appointment is welcomed by the lawyer of Toscan du Plantier's parents Alain Spilliaert who says Judge Turquey is "a very experienced magistrate".

2016, January 26th: Toscan du Plantier' son Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud expresses his frustration and disappointment at the failure of the DPP to meet him to discuss the investigation into his mother's killing.

2016, March 15th: Mr Justice John Hedigan rules that Thomas must hand over all her medical records, spanning a 20-year period for her forthcoming civil action for damages against the State over her arrests in 1997 and 2000.

Under the statute of limitations, Thomas had six years to initiate an action but her lawyers had sought to amend her claim on the basis of her psychological capacity to instruct lawyers prior to 2007, arguing she was too traumatised to do so.

Mr Justice Hedigan makes the ruling, after the court heard from a psychiatrist’s report in which he said he believed Thomas suffered from a depressive illness from 1996 until 2011 which affected her ability to instruct lawyers.

2016, July 6th: The Court of Appeal dismisses an appeal by Thomas aimed at preventing a preliminary application by the State to strike out her case for damages.

2016, July 27th: Judge Nathalie Turquey issues an ordonnance de renvoi, summarising evidence against Bailey and sending him to trial for voluntary homicide in the main French criminal court, the Cour d'Assises in Paris.

2016, August 5th: Baudey-Vignaud welcomes the decision by the French authorities to seek Bailey's extradition and says he will wait another 20 years if necessary to get justice for his mother.

2016, August 6th: Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer reveals that he may seek a High Court injunction in a bid to stop a French magistrate from obtaining his extradition to France to go on trial for the killing.

2016 August 8th: Ian Bailey reveals that he plans to write to the DPP Claire Loftus asking her to reconsider a decision not to charge him with the murder of Toscan du Plantier in a bid to clear his name as he faces the prospect of a trial in France.

2016 September 2nd: Bailey's French lawyer Dominque Tricaud predicts in an interview with The Irish Times that his client will be convicted in absentia of the voluntary homicide of Toscan du Plantier and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

2016 November 19th: The Bouniols's Irish lawyer James McGuill tells the General Assembly of ASSOPH that the latest French European arrest warrant for Bailey will fail unless Dáil Éireann changes what he said was a defective Irish law transposing the EU directive on extradition.

2016, December 22nd: Ian Bailey reveals to The Irish Times that he prays for Toscan du Plantier and her family and for the truth to emerge as the family prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of her killing with a private mass in Paris.

2017, January 8th: Gsoc confirms it does not plan to send its file on complaints by Ian Bailey of Garda corruption to the DPP as it found "no evidence" of Garda criminality in the handling of the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation.

2017, February 5th: Ian Bailey confirms he has been served with an indictment by Judge Nathalie Turquey for the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and says he has written to the DPP Claire Loftus asking her to reconsider her office's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland for the murder.

2017, March 20th: Ian Bailey confirms he has instructed his French lawyer, Dominic Tricaud to lodge an appeal in France against the decision by Judge Turquey to charge him with the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

2017, March 30th: Ian Bailey arrested at the Criminal Courts of Justice after Mr Justice Tony Hunt endorses a second European arrest warrant issued by the French who want to try him for the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Bailey is released on bail.

2017, April 7th: Fennelly Commission inquiry into illegal phone recording by gardaí finds that some gardaí involved in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation were willing to engage in improper conduct but found no evidence of illegal behaviour.

2017, July 24th: Mr Justice Tony Hunt in the High Court refuses to order Ian Bailey's extradition on foot of the latest French European arrest warrant, saying Bailey could not be surrendered on foot of the 2012 Supreme Court decision which was based on identical relevant facts.

Ian Bailey expresses relief but he says he doesn’t expect Mr Justice Hunt’s ruling to be the end of the matter while in France, Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s mother, Marguerite Bouniol describes the Irish High Court decision as “scandalous”.

2017, July 26th: Ian Bailey loses most of the grounds of his appeal against a decision in the High Court not to find in his favour in his civil action against the State for wrongful arrest and claims that three gardaí conspired to frame him for the murder of Toscan du Plantier.

2017, August 17th: Ian Bailey welcomes confirmation by the State that it does not intend to appeal Mr Justice Tony Hunt's refusal to extradite him to France on the latest European arrest warrant issued by the French.

Lawyer for the Bouniols and Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, Alain Spilliaert says he was not surprised by the High Court decision in Dublin but it will have no impact on French plans to try Bailey in absentia.

2017, September 2nd: Ian Bailey launches his poetry collection, "The West Cork Way" at the Electric Picnic festival and describes the whole period of his life since the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier as "very dark" and reveals that at one point, he attempted suicide.

2018, February 1st: Ian Bailey loses his appeal at the French court, the Chambre de l'Instruction, against the decision by the French authorities to charge him with the killing of Toscan du Plantier. It is now open to him to lodge one last appeal to the Cour de Cassation.

2018, February 3rd: Ian Bailey criticises the Dept of Justice for failing to pass on a request from French magistrate, Judge Patrick Gachon in February 2013 to interview him but Judge Gachon decided not to proceed with the request after the Department asked him for the questions in advance.

2018, March 14th: The Court of Appeal overturns its decision permitting a retrial of part of Ian Bailey's civil action for damages against the State over the handling of the Garda investigation into the murder of Toscan du Plantier.

2018, April 17th: Lawyers for Ian Bailey lodge a final appeal to France's highest court, the Cour de Cassation, against the decision by the French Ministry for Justice to charge him in France with the murder of Toscan du Plantier.

2018, May 3rd: Ian Bailey fails in his appeal to the Cour de Cassation to overturn French justice system's decision to charge him with the murder of Toscan du Plantier and says he will now go to the European Court of Human Rights to fight his case.

2018, August 2nd: Gsoc issues its long-awaited report into Ian Bailey's 2012 complaint against the Garda and says it found no evidence that officers falsified evidence to incriminate him even though it is highly critical of Garda management of the investigation.

2019, January 30th: The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier announces that Ian Bailey will go on trial at the Cour d'Assises de Paris on May 27th for the film producer's murder and four days have been set aside for the hearing.

2019, February 1st: Ian Bailey's solicitor Frank Buttimer confirms that his client will not be travelling to France for the trial and Bailey says that all the French will do, if they convict him, is convict an innocent man of a crime he had nothing to do with.

2019, March 10th: Witness Martin Graham, who alleged that gardaí offered him cannabis to try and get Ian Bailey on tape admitting to the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, dies in West Cork at age of 57, following a long illness.

2019, May 27th: Trial of Ian Bailey in absentia for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier begins at the Cour d'Assises in Paris before before presiding magistrate, Judge Frederique Aline and her colleagues Judge Didier Forton and Judge Geraldine Detienne. Two Irish witnesses attend.

2019, May 31st: Judge Frederic Aline and her two colleagues, Judge Didier Tonton and Judge Geraldine Detienne deliver their verdict some 22 1/2 years after her badly beaten body is found outside her holiday home in West Cork

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times