Ian Bailey put spotlight on Garda recording phone calls to stations

High Court was told last November new electronic material had come to light

Although the issue of gardaí recording phone calls to Garda stations was highlighted in a Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into a complaint against four gardaí in Waterford, it was a civil action against the State by former journalist Ian Bailey that gave the issue an impetus and urgency.

Mr Bailey (57) was twice arrested for questioning in connection with the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Schull in west Cork in December 1996 but was never charged in relation to the killing and had always denied any involvement in the death.

A key witness in the case against Mr Bailey was then Schull resident Marie Farrell, who rang Bandon Garda station on January 11th, 1997, to say she had seen a man at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder.

Ms Farrell identified herself as "Fiona" when she rang the station from a public phone box on Cornmarket Street in Cork. She later made another phone call from a public phone box but made a third call, on January 27th, 1997, from her home.


Gardaí traced the number and approached Ms Farrell, who confirmed she was “Fiona” and she later identified the man that she had seen at Kealfadda Bridge to gardaí as Ian Bailey.

On February 10th, 1997, gardaí arrested Mr Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas, at their home in Schull. Both were later released without charge, but 11 months later Mr Bailey was rearrested for questioning about the killing and was again released without charge. Gardaí included several statements from Ms Farrell in a file they sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In November 2001, a solicitor at the DPP's office, Robert Sheehan, referred to Ms Farrell's statements in an analysis of the case against Mr Bailey and said she was an unreliable witness before concluding that the evidence did not warrant a prosecution against Mr Bailey.

In March 2005 the case took a dramatic turn when Ms Farrell contacted Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, to say she had been coerced by gardaí into making false statements implicating Mr Bailey and she retracted her statements.

Mr Buttimer wrote to the then Garda commissioner Noel Conroy expressing concerns about the investigation on foot of Ms Farrell's allegation. In October 2005 Mr Conroy appointed Asst Commissioner Ray McAndrew to review Garda handling of the case.

Asst Commissioner McAndrew completed his review in 2007 and sent a file to the DPP, who decided not to prosecute anyone. In 2007, Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas initiated civil proceedings against the State for damages for wrongful arrest.

In the course of that action lawyers for Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas sought discovery of matters from the Garda file. Last November counsel for the State, Paul O'Higgins SC, told the High Court that new and unexpected electronic material had come to light.

Mr O’Higgins said that the material related to previously unheard “phone traffic”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times