Ian Bailey trial: Prosecutor called for maximum 30-year sentence

DPP looked at evidence against Bailey in ‘a segmented basis’ rather than in its entirety

 Ian Bailey has been accused of cowardice for failing to appear before a French court. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ian Bailey has been accused of cowardice for failing to appear before a French court. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times


The public prosecutor in the Paris trial of Ian Bailey for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork over 20 years ago has called for the maximum 30-year life sentence to be imposed.

Public prosecutor Jean Pierre Bonthoux told the trial of Mr Bailey at the Cour d’Assises in Paris on Friday the Director of Public Prosecutions in Ireland, when reviewing the Garda case against Mr Bailey in 2001, looked at it on “a segmented basis” rather than looking at the bigger picture and the evidence in its entirety.

Prior to Mr Bailey’s conviction of the voluntary homicide of Ms Toscan du Plantier at her holiday home near Toormore on December 23rd, 1996, Mr Bonthoux said: “I do not want to stigmatise the justice system of another country but the DPP looked at the Garda file segment by segment. He concluded each segment was zero and when he added segment to segment, he was adding zero to zero and got zero rather than looking at the bigger picture,” he said.

Summing up the prosecution case on Friday, Mr Bonthoux also told the three judges, president judge Frederic Aline and her colleagues judge Didier Forton and judge Geraldine Detienne, Mr Bailey had shown cowardice by failing to come to France to face the charge and he had insulted the French justice system by remaining in Ireland.

He pointed out Mr Bailey had gone to court five times in Ireland including a libel action against newspapers, a libel appeal and in a case against the State and he had lost each of these three cases where many witnesses testified against him.

He instanced the case Mr Bailey took against eight newspaper titles at Cork Circuit Court in 2003 where some 21 of the 28 witnesses testified against Mr Bailey and the judge found for the newspapers on every issue except on whether he had been violent towards his first wife.

No witch-hunt

Mr Bonthoux said the case against Mr Bailey was not “a witch-hunt” and the French justice system did not really care whether he lived an alternative lifestyle and wrote obscenities in his diary, it was only interested in him in relation to the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

He acknowledged the lack of DNA and forensic evidence but reminded the three judges that they should look at the case in the context of the 1990s when DNA was only beginning to be used and there were some cases where even without DNA evidence, the state had secured “a condemnation” or conviction.

The prosecution concluded its case against the English journalist shortly after 10.10am Irish time on Friday.

Mr Bonthoux also addressed the testimony of Marie Farrell that she saw Mr Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder and pointed out that her retraction came after almost ten years and he questioned why she had stood by her story for almost a decade if she did not believe it was true.

He said it was clear Ms Farrell was terrified of Mr Bailey once she realised he had established that she was the witness who had identified him at Kealfadda Bridge and he suggested her decision to retract her inculpatory statement about Mr Bailey was born out of intimidation and fear.

He also referred to the evidence of Malachi Reed who was so terrified when Mr Bailey said he had killed Ms Toscan du Plantier that it had a huge impact on his life while he also noted Richard and Rosie Shelley were equally adamant Mr Bailey was confessing them to when he said he went too far.

The Palais de Justice in Paris, where the trial of Ian Bailey is taking place. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The Palais de Justice in Paris, the historical setting for the trial of Ian Bailey. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

‘Material evidences’

Mr Bonthoux then turned to what he described as “the material evidences” – the scratches on Mr Bailey’s hands which he claimed to have got from killing three turkeys on Sunday, December 22nd and when he cut the top off a Christmas tree on the same day.

He pointed out that no fewer than six witnesses made statements to gardaí that they were in the Galley Bar when Mr Bailey was there on the night of Sunday December 22nd and none of them noticed any scratches on his hands, contrary to what he said.

Mr Bonthoux suggested the scratches were not suffered by Mr Bailey on the afternoon or evening of Sunday, December 22nd but after he left the bar and he pointed out Mr Bailey’s scratches were similar to scratches found on Ms Toscan du Plantier’s hands which were caused by fleeing through briars.

And he questioned when Mr Bailey would have had time to kill three turkeys and climb up a tree and cut off its top that weekend given he said he was under pressure to have an article submitted to a newspaper in Dublin on the morning of December 23rd.

He also referred to the fact that Billy Fuller saw Jules Thomas driving Mr Bailey down road near the turn off to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s house at around 10.30am which contradicted Ms Thomas’s assertion she did not leave the house until around 2pm when they learned of the murder from Eddie Cassidy.

Mr Fuller’s testimony tallied with that of James Camier who told gardaí that Ms Thomas mentioned the murder when she visited his stall at around 11am/11.30am in Goleen which in turn corroborated testimony from Caroline Leftwick that Mr Bailey mentioned the murder to her when he rang at midday.


Repeated denials

There was also the testimony of Patrick Lowney who identified Mr Bailey as the man who came to him in 2000 to develop a roll of film which showed the body of a woman lying at the entrance to a laneway and he later identified the scene as the entrance to Drinane where Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered.

These photos could only have been taken before the gardaí sealed off the crime scene and those supported the belief that Mr Bailey knew about the killing before Eddie Cassidy rang him at 1.40pm to say that there had been a murder in the area.

The three judge Cour d’Assises court, headed up by president, judge Frederique Aline and her fellow assessors, judge Didier Forton and judge Geraldine Detienne, has now risen, and is expected to begin its deliberations shortly.

Judge Aline and her colleagues took five hours to convicted Mr Bailey.

Usually in such cases, the defence team would then enter their pleadings but given Mr Bailey is being tried in absentia, and is not legally represented at the hearing.

The three judges spent three days listening to evidence given by several witnesses who attended in person.

However, some 22 Irish witnesses the court listed to give evidence did not attend. It later emerged three of the 22 are now deceased and in two of these cases, their statements to the gardaí as part of the original Garda investigation, were read into the evidence.

Mr Bailey, who is being tried in absentia and is not legally represented at the hearing at the Cour d’Assises, has repeatedly denied that he had any involvement in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier or that he ever made any admissions in relation to her death.