Toscan du Plantier family backs plan for French team’s return

Investigators to be allowed back in Ireland to interview up to 30 witnesses in murder case

Alain Spilliaert, who represents the parents of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (above)  and her son,  said it was good news for the family that Judge Patrick Gachon has been given the go-ahead to send his investigating team back to Ireland.

Alain Spilliaert, who represents the parents of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (above) and her son, said it was good news for the family that Judge Patrick Gachon has been given the go-ahead to send his investigating team back to Ireland.

 

A lawyer acting for the family of murdered French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier has welcomed the news that French investigators are to be allowed return to Ireland to interview up to 30 witnesses in the case.

Alain Spilliaert, who represents Ms Toscan du Plantier’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and her son, Pierre Louis Baudey, said it was good news for the family that Judge Patrick Gachon has been given the go-ahead to send his team back to Ireland.

“We welcome this - this is good news regarding good co-operation between two important countries in Europe - we understand that Judge Gachon received a communication several weeks ago confirming that this co-operation can now proceed again,” said Mr Spilliaert.

Mr Spilliaert said he believes it will be September at the earliest before a team of French investigators can return to Ireland to take statements from up to 30 witnesses as part of the French investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the matter when contacted, saying all requests for mutual assistance are dealt with on a confidential basis, but The Irish Times understands a suspension of the co-operation has been lifted.

It is understood a decision by the Department of Justice to facilitate a second visit by the French police was adjourned in April 2014 after the man twice arrested for questioning about the killing sent a solicitor’s letter to the department.

English journalist Ian Bailey (58), who denies any involvement in the killing and ever making any admissions regarding the killing, instructed his solicitor Frank Buttimer to write to the Department of Justice to object to Irish co-operation with the French inquiry.

Mutual Assistance Act

Mr Buttimer confirmed to The Irish Times in April 2014 that he had written to the Department of Justice that his client would look at all options, including taking legal action against the State, if it did not terminate the assistance allowed under the Mutual Assistance Act 2000.

Mr Buttimer later said that the Department of Justice had confirmed to him in writing that it had deferred a decision on whether to grant assistance to the French investigation and to allow a team of French police to return to Ireland.

According to Mr Spilliaert, Judge Gachon may return to Ireland himself as part of this second visit, having already come to West Cork with fellow magistrate, Judge Nathalie Dutartre, in June 2009 to see where Ms Toscan du Plantier was murdered at Toormore near Schull.

Just over two years later in October 2011, a team of French police investigators came to Ireland to record interviews with up to 30 witnesses who had previously given statements as part of the original Garda investigation.

Statement withdrawn

Mr Bailey alleged this Garda investigation was corrupt after a key witness, Marie Farrell, withdrew a statement that she had made locating him near the murder scene on the night of the killing, and he brought a High Court action against the State for wrongful arrest.

Mr Bailey lost the High Court action in March after a jury dismissed his claim for damages. It’s understood it was following this decision by the High Court that the Department of Justice gave the go-ahead for French investigators to return to Ireland.

Mr Spilliaert said Ms Toscan du Plantier’s elderly parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, welcome the decision by the Irish authorities but are anxious for the French investigators to return to Ireland as quickly as possible.

“They welcome the decision but they want this to be done as quickly as possible - they are both elderly now and time is of the essence for them - the French team won’t be able to travel in July or August but hopefully they will be able to travel in September,” he said.