Gardai warn that murderer may strike again


ANYONE protecting the killer of the murdered Frenchwoman, Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier, could be in danger because the murderer may strike again, Chief Supt Noel Smith has warned.

Chief Supt Smith, who is leading the investigation into the killing of the near Goleen in west Cork before Christmas, said gardai were making good progress in the case.

He was confident of bringing the investigation to a successful conclusion, he told a press conference in Bandon, Co Cork, yesterday.

Ms du Plantier (39), a television producer, was found bludgeoned to death at the entrance to her holiday home on December 23rd.

Chief Supt Smith said gardai were pleased with the response from local people. They had built up a picture of the woman's last days but there were still some gaps.

However, he believed there was someone living locally with vitally important information who had not yet come forward.

"They can ring some Garda they can trust and if they have reasons not to come to the police because of a previous experience, this is the time to forget petty grievances with agencies in the past.

"The greater good of society should be uppermost in anybody's mind. The person who did this has a particular mentality and might strike again and it might be someone close to you," he said.

Gardai were particularly anxious to talk to anybody who had travelled the road from Goleen to Schull, or from Goleen to Durrus, at any time on the night of December 22nd until 10 a.m. the next day when the woman's body was found by a neighbour.

While the results of forensic tests were not available yet, gardai believe she did not have sex and was not raped or been sexually assaulted on the night of her murder outside her converted farmhouse at Dunmanus West on the Mizen penninsula.

Chief Supt Smith would not say whether any suspects were local or from abroad.

"We are following a number of lines of inquiry and the question of a definite suspect does not arise," he said. Gardai were keeping an open mind on whether the killer was a man or a woman, he added.

He said initial indications from the pathologist showed she was hit on the head with a blunt instrument and it was not known if death was instantaneous.

Gardai had not asked for samples from people for DNA testing and had not found the murder weapon.

"We do not want to give any psychological or forensic advantage to the person who committed this crime," said Chief Supt Smith.

Ms du Plantier had never complained to gardai of being disturbed in her home, said Chief Supt Smith.

Ms du Plantier had originally planned to spend Christmas in her converted farmhouse in west Cork, but decided to leave on Christmas Eve.

On the Sunday before she was killed, she telephoned a friend in France at 5.32 p.m. and at about 9.30 p.m. made one of two local calls to the caretaker of her house to say she was returning to France on Tuesday.

Her last call was to her husband in Toulouse shortly before 11 p.m. Chief Supt Smith said that all the sightings of the Frenchwoman reported her as being alone from the time she arrived in Cork airport on December 20th.

Her first stop on her way west was to buy kindling at a Texaco garage in Ballydehob before calling to the Courtyard Pub and restaurant in Schull.

She arrived at her home shortly afterwards when she made a telephone call at 5. 15 p.m.

She was next seen in Schull the following afternoon at 2.49 p.m. where she bought groceries and later withdrew money from a bank cash dispenser.

She ordered a copy of Le Monde newspaper for Monday and neighbours saw her car outside her home at 4.30 pm. At 10.30 pm. she telephoned a friend in France.

The first sighting of Ms du Plantier on Sunday was when she spent an hour walking alone at Three Castle Head about 15 miles from her home. She then visited friends locally, leaving them at about 3.30 pm.

Gardai have appealed for the driver of a red car seen in the area at the time to contact them.

At 4. 15 p.m. she called to the O'Sullivans in Crookhaven Inn where she had a cup of tea.

She left there at about 5 p.m. and was at home all evening, making one call to France at 5.32 p.m., two calls locally, and one to her husband at 10.50 pm. which he returned 10 minutes later.