An Garda Síochána has appointed a team to carry out a preliminary assessment of the investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork, in an attempt to ascertain whether a full cold-case review is needed.
The Irish Times has learned that four detectives from the serious crime review team have started examining the case file, which runs to some 4,000 pages and was submitted four times to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“Carrying out a scoping exercise would be standard before you begin a full review of a case,” a source said, adding that they would look at issues such as forensics and ask if advances in technology would make them worth revisiting.
“You would also look at statements. Maybe the circumstances of witnesses have changed and somebody who wasn’t able to talk 25 years ago might be in a position to talk now or maybe tell you more. It’s not a reinvestigation but a review to assist the senior investigating officer.”
Ms Toscan du Plantier's son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, raised the possibility of a full cold-case review of the murder when he met Chief Supt Con Cadogan of the West Cork Division in Schull in October.
“I said to Chief Supt Cadogan ‘why not a cold-case review because it is a cold case?’ So, it is good to hear that detectives are carrying out some preliminary work in relation to that,” he said.
The body of the French film producer (39) was found on December 23rd, 1996 at the entrance to her holiday home at Dreenane near Toormore. She had sustained severe head injuries.
The chief suspect, Ian Bailey, has also called for a cold-case review. He has written three times this year to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on the matter. He said that in the most recent response received, he was told that a review was being considered.
"To be honest, it doesn't really matter to me whether it's a cold-case review or a review. If it's a review and it's honest and independent, that's what I really want," he said. He expressed his gratitude to Drogheda native Amanda Large, who believes he is innocent and last month submitted a petition signed by 30,000 people to Mr Harris in support of Mr Bailey's request for a review.
The 64-year-old was twice arrested but never charged in Ireland in connection with Ms Toscan du Plantier's murder. He has repeatedly denied involvement in the killing, but was convicted in absentia of her murder in France in 2019 and sentenced to 25 years.
Meanwhile, gardaí in Bantry have been investigating reports circulating on social media that Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered by a now deceased retired garda, who it is alleged she had an affair with in the 1990s.
The story began circulating some years ago in posts by a man in his 40s living in west Cork. Mr Bailey recently posted on social media looking for information on the retired garda, who he named.
Mr Bailey said he believed Ms Toscan du Plantier had met the officer when he investigated a complaint she made to gardaí about a neighbour.
However, the Garda has said that Ms Toscan du Plantier never made a complaint about anyone. Sources close to her said that while she had an issue with a neighbour in the Toormore area, she took advice locally and decided against making any complaint to gardaí.
Rumours about the man, who retired from the force in late 1994, have continued to circulate, including that he made a death-bed confession in a west Cork hospital in 2001 to a nurse, who has since died.
The rumour prompted a woman to contact the nurse’s family online, urging them to go to gardaí. Investigators have established that the nurse was working in a Cork city hospital when the garda died in west Cork and they have asked the woman to desist from contacting the nurse’s family.
A source said the rumours have been “very distressing” for the late garda’s family. “We have found nothing to suggest the officer in question was involved with or ever had any dealings with Sophie.”