Sophie Toscan du Plantier family lawyer: Gsoc report ‘goes in our favour’

Ian Bailey describes report into case as ‘wishy-washy’, leaving him ‘disappointed but not surprised’

Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found close to a laneway near her holiday home, in the isolated townland of Drinane, outside Schull, in Co Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found close to a laneway near her holiday home, in the isolated townland of Drinane, outside Schull, in Co Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

 

The lawyer for the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the Frenchwoman murdered in West Cork at Christmas 1996, has said the report into the Garda investigation “goes in our favour”.

The report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), published on Thursday, was highly critical of the handling of the investigation but found no evidence officers tried to frame Ian Bailey, the 61-year-old English, Cork-based journalist.

France has tried unsuccessfully to extradite Mr Bailey from his home in West Cork, and a trial is likely to be held in absentia.

Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family, told The Irish Times Mr Bailey “should understand that it would be in his interest to appear before the criminal court.”

“Mr Bailey has claimed from the beginning that the Irish police investigation was flawed,” Mr Spilliaert said. “This report is important because it confirms a previous judgment from the High Court of Dublin ruling that the Garda criminal investigation was not corrupted.”

Regarding evidence lost by the Garda, Mr Spilliaert said: “In any case, a French judge thought the evidence was solid enough to send the case to trial. Just because there is no DNA does not mean that the criminal file is over.

“The case is based on the file built up by the Irish police plus the work of French investigating magistrates who worked with the Garda over the past decade.”

Mr Spilliaert said the fact that the Gsoc report also cleared Garda of having coerced Marie Farrell, a witness who initially testified against Mr Bailey but then retracted her testimony, was also important.

“The French justice system considered that Ms Farrell’s statements and her subsequent retraction were suspicious and helped to justify a trial,” Mr Spilliaert said.

“This is one more element. The Gsoc report goes in our favour.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bailey has described the report as anodyne and wishy-washy.

He was identified by gardaí as a suspect at an early stage of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found close to a laneway near her holiday home, in the isolated townland of Drinane, outside Schull, in Co Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

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

Gsoc has spent almost seven years investigating complaints by Mr Bailey, his partner Jules Thomas and witness Ms Farrell alleging Garda corruption in the investigation which saw Mr Bailey twice arrested for questioning but never charged in relation to the murder.

The report, released on Thursday, said the number of statements and exhibits that have gone missing suggested the investigation was not properly managed, particularly in relation to the incident room set up to investigate the killing.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Ian Bailey was ‘framed’ for the murder or that evidence was falsified, forged or fabricated by members of An Garda Síochána,” said Gsoc, which dismissed a claim by Mr Bailey that a review by the DPP supported his allegation of corruption.

The failings in the investigation included the disappearance of a blood-spattered gate, taken from close to where Ms Toscan du Plantier’s body was found, a French wine bottle found four months after the murder near the scene of the killing, and Mr Bailey’s black coat.

It also appeared that some pages had been deliberately cut or removed from “jobs books” which documented how gardaí approached the investigation. And it appeared this happened some time after a 2002 review as they were not noted as being missing then by the review team, Gsoc found.

Contacted by The Irish Times on Thursday night, Mr Bailey said he was still studying the 36-page report. However, he said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by what he had read. “It’s very anodyne and wishy-washy,” he added.