French judge seeks access to du Plantier files

 

A FRENCH magistrate investigating the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork has asked gardaí for access to Garda files on assaults by English journalist Ian Bailey on his partner, Jules Thomas, both before and after the murder of the French film producer.

Judge Patrick Gachon has asked gardaí for access to files relating to two assaults by Mr Bailey on Ms Thomas, which were both the subject of Garda investigations even though only one led to a criminal prosecution of Mr Bailey.

Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier (39), whose badly beaten body was found with severe head injuries near the entrance to her holiday home at Dreenane near Toormore outside Schull on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.

Ms Thomas was assaulted by Mr Bailey on three occasions, in August 1993, May 1996 and August 2001, with the last incident resulting in a court appearance, a conviction and a suspended sentence being imposed on Mr Bailey for assault causing harm.

However, in May 1996, Ms Thomas also made a complaint to Garda Michael McCarthy in Ballydehob Garda station that she was assaulted by Mr Bailey.

She was photographed with injuries and gardaí began an investigation.

Ms Thomas later withdrew the complaint and the investigation did not proceed, but gardaí have retained a file on the case including photographs, a statement of complaint and witness statements to which the French have now sought access.

The French interior security attaché at the French embassy in London, Eric Battesti, confirmed to The Irish Timesthat under French law, a suspect’s previous behaviour forms part of a police investigation in France and is admissible in evidence in a French court.

“In France, you have not only material evidence but you can also introduce evidence such as a suspect’s personal writings . . . and previous behaviour – it all goes towards building a profile of a suspect which a trial jury can use to reach its decision,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, told The Irish Timesit was also open to a French prosecutor to present evidence of behaviour after a crime if it reveals something of the character of the accused.

“Under French law, a prosecutor can introduce evidence from after a crime if he or she can show that it is relevant to the profile of a suspect – if he or she can show that it forms a pattern of behaviour or gives an insight into the character of a suspect.

“Even though Mr Bailey’s assault on Jules Thomas in 2001 happened five years after the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, under French law it would be possible to present it at the cours d’assises because it shows something of the character of Mr Bailey,” he said.

During his libel actions against eight newspapers at Cork Circuit Court in 2003, Mr Bailey admitted three assaults on Ms Thomas but insisted it did not mean he had killed or had any involvement in the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

“The fact that I have committed these [assaults] with Jules doesn’t mean that I am a murderer,” said Mr Bailey under cross-examination by Paul Gallagher SC for the eight newspapers on the third day of the libel actions.

Meanwhile, a team of French investigators are set to travel to Ireland in the first week of October to interview about 30 witnesses who gave statements to the original Garda murder investigation as part of their inquiry into the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR: COURT HEARD OF INCIDENTS BETWEEN COUPLE

IAN BAILEY’S history of violent behaviour towards his partner, Jules Thomas, when under the influence of alcohol was highlighted during his 2003 libel actions at Cork Circuit Court against eight newspaper titles when he admitted assaulting her on three occasions.

Mr Bailey told Cork Circuit Court he assaulted Ms Thomas in August 1993 when they were staying in a small bed in a house in Cork city. They both had consumed a lot of alcohol and he forced her from the bed and, while he didn’t hit her, he was violent towards her.

He admitted, under cross-examination by counsel for the newspapers, Paul Gallagher SC, that Ms Thomas’s blood had ended up on the wall of the bedroom and she had to get a taxi to Cork University Hospital where she received treatment for her injuries.

Mr Bailey also admitted assaulting Ms Thomas in May 1996, when they had a row driving home from a party in Lisheen near Skibbereen and he later assaulted her, biting her, pulling hair from two parts of her head and severing her lip from her gum.

Ms Thomas’s daughter, Ginny, called a friend, Peter Bielecki, who called a doctor and went to Ms Thomas’s house where he found Ms Thomas in a terribly distressed state with serious injuries to her face and head, the court heard.

“I could hear what I can only describe as animal sounds. Terrible distress . . . Jules was curled up in almost a foetal position at the foot of the bed and making these terrible, terrible moans . . . I think she had hair in her hands. She was pulling hair in her hands. Her eye was purple. It was huge. There was blood coming from one point . . . her mouth was swollen, her face had gouges in it and her right hand, I think it was her right hand, actually had teeth marks. She had teeth marks on her hand and arm.

“It was as if somebody had their soul ripped out . . . It was like their spirit was gone . . . it has to be said it was absolutely the most appalling thing I have ever witnessed,” Mr Bielecki told the court.

Mr Bailey also told of how he assaulted Ms Thomas in August 2001 when a dispute broke out between them after she had asked him to move from a couch where he was resting with his leg in plaster with an Achilles tendon injury, and he hit her with his crutch.

He had drunk some wine and taken some painkillers and while Ms Thomas had also consumed some alcohol, the assault would not have happened if he had not mixed alcohol and painkillers, he said.

Ms Thomas ended up with a black eye, a swollen cheek, bruised lips and a cut chin and Mr Bailey told the court he was ashamed of his behaviour which was “appalling”.

They both had “temperaments” which, when drink was involved, had led to violence, he said.

The court heard how he noted in his diary following one assault: “One act of whisky-induced madness, coupled and cracked, and in an act of such awful violence, I severely damaged you and made you feel that death was near.”

Ms Thomas described the 1993 assault as “a moment of alcoholic madness” while she said the 1996 one was “a temper flash” and the 2001 assault was “a quick flash attack”.

Both she and Mr Bailey had been drinking on each occasion, she told the court.

She said the distress she had suffered as a result of the newspaper articles linking Mr Bailey to the murder were worse than any injuries inflicted in the assaults.

“I know we had three fights but these seven years have been a million times worse than any beatings,” she said.