Sophie Toscan du Plantier: ‘No evidence’ of Garda criminality

Ombudsman file on Garda handling of murder investigation will not be sent to DPP

 Sophie Toscan du Plantier:      murdered in west Cork in 1996. Photograph: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP/Getty

Sophie Toscan du Plantier: murdered in west Cork in 1996. Photograph: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP/Getty

 

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has decided not to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on its investigation into the Garda’s handling of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in December 1996.

This decision was made after Gsoc found no evidence of criminal behaviour by gardaí, The Irish Times has learned.

The English journalist Ian Bailey (59) made a complaint to Gsoc in late 2011, alleging that gardaí had sought to frame him for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier (39) at her holiday home at Toormore, near Schull in west Cork.

Mr Bailey made his complaint on foot of material he received from the State in 2011, including a highly critical review of the Garda investigation by Robert Sheehan, a solicitor at the DPP’s office, as Mr Bailey fought an extradition request from France over Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder.

Mr Bailey’s complaint to Gsoc drew heavily on comments by Mr Sheehan regarding the unreliability of key witness Marie Farrell, who had identified Mr Bailey as a man she saw at Kealfadda Bridge, just over a mile from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s home, on the night of the murder.

Mr Bailey also relied on comments by Mr Sheehan about the behaviour of gardaí towards another witness, Martin Graham, who claimed that gardaí had given him hash to obtain a taped confession from Mr Bailey. Mr Sheehan described “such investigative practices as clearly unsafe”.

Mr Bailey also drew on an email from former DPP Eamonn Barnes, in which Mr Barnes said that the State solicitor for west Cork, Malachy Boohig, had notified him of an approach by a senior garda to contact the then minister for justice, John O’Donoghue, to get the DPP to charge Mr Bailey with the murder.

Statement retracted

Ms Farrell later retracted her statement incriminating Mr Bailey and alleged that she had been coerced by gardaí into falsely identifying Mr Bailey as the man at Kealfadda Bridge, while Mr Graham later gave media interviews offering details of his allegation that he was offered drugs to entrap Mr Bailey.

Gsoc began its investigation in late February 2012 and took detailed statements from Mr Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas, and Ms Farrell. It attempted to take a statement from Mr Graham and also interviewed more than a dozen serving and retired gardaí.

But The Irish Times has learned that Gsoc has opted not to send the file to the DPP. After reviewing its investigators’ findings, it believes they didn’t discover any evidence to meet the threshold of criminal behaviour required by the DPP to warrant a prosecution.

Instead, Gsoc will supply copies of its report – understood to be one of the lengthiest ever prepared by the agency – to Mr Bailey and the other relevant parties, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, for comment before publication either in late January or early February.

High Court action

In 2015, during Mr Bailey’s unsuccessful High Court action against the State for damages over his wrongful arrest, Ms Farrell said that she had been “getting confused with fact and fiction” when questioned about a detailed interview she gave to Gsoc investigators in 2012. In the videotaped interview, she confirmed to Gsoc investigators a statement she had made in 1997 about a visit by Mr Bailey to her shop in Schull, in which she alleged he had threatened to tell the department of health and social security in Britain about a fraudulent social welfare claim. In the High Court in 2015, however, she said this had never happened.

In the wake of the High Court action, Gsoc said that it had no plans to re-interview Ms Farrell after her retraction in court of her 2012 statement, with one informed source telling The Irish Times that the Gsoc team “didn’t feel there was any great value in going back to her”.

Meanwhile, Mr Graham confirmed in the High Court case that he had refused to speak to Gsoc investigators who travelled to meet him at the Park Hotel in Northampton, England, on February 11th, 2013, because of a dispute over whether Gsoc would pay expenses he was seeking.

Mr Bailey, who has always denied any involvement in the murder or making any admissions about the murder, declined to comment on Gsoc’s decision not to send a file to the DPP, saying he had yet to receive any official notification to that effect from Gsoc.