At a Glance: a week at the Ian Bailey case

Witness tells how he feared for his life after gardai threatened him with the Provos

Jules Thomas and Ian Bailey arriving at the Four Courts  for his High Court action for damages. Photograph: Courts Collins

Jules Thomas and Ian Bailey arriving at the Four Courts for his High Court action for damages. Photograph: Courts Collins

 

Here’s an overview of the key evidence from the High Court this week, where Ian Bailey is suing the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found near Toomore, Schull, on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.

* Ian Bailey remains “a person of interest” 18 years on from Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s murder, the High Court heard. The facts of the case “had not changed” apart from witness Marie Farrell disputing her original statement she had seen Mr Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the killing.

Chief Supt Tom Hayes said there were reasonable grounds to treat Mr Bailey as a suspect including a history of violence towards his partner, Jules Thomas and witness statements that he had scratches on his hands which gardaí believe the killer would have had because of briars at the murder scene.

Suspicion about Mr Bailey also stemmed from the fact there were inaccuracies in his account of his movements on the night of December 21st/22nd 1996 - and information was also given to gardaí about apparent admissions to the murder by Mr Bailey.

Chief Supt Hayes said the suspicion about Mr Bailey was amplified when he told gardaí inan interview that he was missing from his house for a number of hours on the night of the murder. This was confirmed by Ms Thomas in a statement but Mr Bailey’s explanation has never been corroborated.

* Former British soldier Martin Graham (53) told how he feared for his life after he was bundled into the back of a car by two unidentified men who threatened him “with the Provos” as they punched and beat him demanding that he hand over a tape recording they thought he had.

Mr Graham broke down in tears as he told how he was dragged into a car by the two men as he waited to meet his Garda contacts, Det Liam Leahy and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald in Skibbereen in May 1997. “I thought I was going to be murdered.”

He said the two men, whom he later learned were gardaí, drove him around the countryside for 30 to 45 minutes, digging him in the back and demanding that he hand over a tape recording which he believed referred to a recording he had tried to make for a newspaper.

He had contacted the Irish Mirror after Det Garda Fitzgerald offered him hash to befriend Bailey in bid to “loosen his tongue”. His attempt to record the detective talking about the hash failed after a dictaphone didn’t activate.

* Martin Graham said the reason he can remember his dealings with gardaí investigating the murder so clearly when he has forgotten other events in his life is because he has spent the past 18 years hiding from events in West Cork.

Mr Graham told counsel for the State, Paul O’Higgins SC, during an intensive cross-examination that he had suffered a mental breakdown when serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Northern Ireland between 1980 and 1982 when he was engaged in undercover surveillance operations.

“I have a blank space in my head between my breakdown and my discharge. Mmy mind is buggered in the sense of what the army did to me,” said Mr Graham when he was unable to recall where he had been stationed after he returned to England or when he got married.

Mr O’Higgins then put it to Mr Graham that, if he could not remember such important events in his life, how could he tell the jury what was supposed to have happened in Schull in 1997. “Because I spent 18 years hiding from it,” the witness replied.

* Ian Bailey “appeared fine” to a neighbour who met him and chatted with him about the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on the day that her body was found at her holiday home at Toormore near Schull, the High Court heard.

John Dukelow, a fisherman who lived 500 metres from Mr Bailey’s home at Lisacaha, Schull, said he had noticed no scratches on the journalist’s hands when he met him on the evening of December 23rd 1996. They chattted for about an hour about a number of subjects, including the killing.

“I would have met Mr Bailey in the weeks following December 23rd, 1996. I gave him a lift home from Schull one evening and he said to me ‘You won’t believe this but they think I am after murdering that woman’ and I said ‘Ah no’ - he was shaken by that,” said Mr Dukelow.

* The majority of people in Schull felt Ian Bailey was the person who murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier after he was twice arrested for questioning about the crime, a local shopkeeper told the court.

Thomas Brosnan, who owns the Spar supermarket in Schull, said that although the general feeling in the area was that Mr Bailey was the culprit when he was arrested, he personally was hugely surprised. “He was the last person that I thought would be arrested for something like this,” he said.

* Martin Graham said he was reluctant to get involved in the murder investigation but he felt a civic duty at the same time to tell them what had happened at the home of artist Russell Barrett when Ian Bailey stayed there following his release from Garda custody on February 10th, 1997.

“I wanted to tell the gardaí about Ian Bailey’s demeanour - that’s what they wanted to know but I wouldn’t tell them in front of anyone because I didn’t want to be accused or ratting on anyone. I didn’t want people to be aware that I had talked to the police,” he said.

“I didn’t have anything to tell them - not that I wanted to tell them in front of others in the house - I didn’t say anything to the gardaí in front of other people,” he said, adding that none of the people that he was friendly with in Skibbereen trusted the police in the area.

* Mr Justice John Hedigan said the State was entitled to question Mr Graham about his career in the British army and his medical history as it was central to the State’s challenge to his credibility as a witness in what is a very important case.

Barrister for Ian Bailey, Ronan Munro BL, submitted that the State was delving into “collateral issues” which were not relevant to the case in questioning Mr Graham at length about his career in the British army and his mental breakdown while serving in Northern Ireland.

“What my friend (Mr O’Higgins) is doing is on the verge of badgering the witness into obtaining evidence for the gardaí and assisting the State’s case,” said Mr Munro, adding he could not see the relevance of the issue, particularly given concerns about how long the case is taking.

But Mr Justice Hedigan disagreed: “I am not going to stop him (Mr O’Higgins) getting to the background of the case - I can’t fathom what your objection is .... they are not collateral, they are central to his credibility and the credibility of witnesses is central to this case.”

* Martin Graham said he believed two detectives must have been recording his first meeting with them as the statement that they produced for him to sign regarding what Ian Bailey said upon his release from Garda custody was accurate in all respects.

Mr Graham had initially questioned the accuracy of the statement, saying that he had no recollection of ever signing the document, that things seemed “out of proportion” and that it included phrases which he would never use such as describing a joint as ‘a split’.

But when counsel for the State, Paul O’Higgins SC showed him the original handwritten statement taken by Det Garda Liam Leahy and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald, Mr Graham agreed that the original document said ‘spliff’ - a term he would use to describe a joint - rather than ‘split’ .

Mr Graham confirmed his signature on the statement dated February 25th, 1997 but said it was presented to him by the detectives in the back of a car and he had signed it after seeing elements that were familiar but without reading it in full as the writing was blurry and the car was moving.

“I’m looking at the statement now and I’m not disputing anything - I told the gardaí what I knew - it’s the first time I have the chance to read the whole of it - for them to recall all that from my first meeting (February 18th), suggests that they were taping me even on the first meeting, “ he said.

* A total of 54 suspects or persons of interest were identified by gardai investigating the murder, Chief Supt Hayes revealed.

He said the nomination of someone as a suspect or “a person of interest in modern parlance” did not require a very high threshold and the focus would be broad rather than narrow and would include people who would have had contact with the deceased.

* Ian Bailey was not the target of formal Garda surveillance as alleged by garda whistleblower, John Wilson but was the subject of passive recording of incidents and the number of entries in the PULSE system reflected this, according to Chief Supt Hayes.

“I can say categorically there was no surveillance or no formal surveillance on Mr Bailey since I arrived in the West Cork Division and looking back, there was no formal surveillance. It was passive recording of incidents where somebody would have met or seen him and recorded it on PULSE.”

Chief Supt Hayes pointed out that there was one entry or collation on Mr Bailey in 1999 and five in 2000 and these numbers were “terribly low - that level of collation would be unacceptable in relation to an active criminal”.

Many of the entries related to Mr Bailey’s signing on at Garda stations while on bail and he instanced both 2010, when 11 of the 20 entries related to bail matters, and 2011 when 15 of 24 entries related to signing on after he had been granted bail on a European Arrest Warrant issued by France.

* A total of five fines for motoring offences against the husband of a key witness in the case had not been paid, according to Chief Supt Hayes. This swas because the warrants for their payments had not been re-issued in time, he said.

Chief Supt Hayes said he had found records of five fines from 1997 and 1999 not being paid by Chris Farrell - husband of Marie Farrell - for motoring offences such as no insurance, no driving licence and non display of tax - and the sums totalled €698.

Ms Farrell previously told the court she had continued to co-operate with gardaí, including allegedly making false statements implicating Ian Bailey in the killing, in return for favours including the non-pursuit of warrants.

Chief Supt Hayes said he had checked on the warrants in relations to the non-payment of fines by Mr Farrell and he found five which had not been paid These had been sent for re-issue, but this had not been done as the time period for re-issue had elapsed.

He found 25 other warrants totalling €15,000 had been executed against the Farrells by gardaí. Some of these were for motoring offences but some totalling approximately €9,000 were civil debts, including three for sums over €1,000 and one for a sum exceeding €2,000.

* A detective involved in the investigation of the murder told a neighbour of Mr Bailey’s they had no doubt the English journalist had committed the murder. John Dukelow told the court that he received a visit from Det Liam Leahy and Det Jim Fitzgerald in June or July 1997 and they began asking him questions about Ian Bailey whom he had got to know when Mr Bailey was working in the fish factory in Schull.

Det Leahy and Det Fitzgerald introduced themselves to me- there was a conversation and Det Leahy said that ‘No doubt about it, that bastard did it’.

“ I understood him to be referring to Ian Bailey and I understood him to mean that Ian had murdered that woman,” he said.

* Mr Dukelow said Det Leahy and Dr Fitzgerald behaved like”good cop, bad cop’ when they visited him at his home in the months after Mr Bailey’s arrest, trying to find out information about the English journalist.

“One was a bit boisterous and one was playing nice - Det Leahy was a bit boisterous and Det Fitzgerald was smiley, happy, not threatening,” said Mr Dukelow, adding that he was not “bosom buddies” with Mr Bailey but he had always remained on good terms with him.

He said that he asked the two officers what the man seen at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder was supposed to have been doing and Det Garda Leahy gestured with his hands to indicate the man was seen washing his face.

“I heard that Ian Bailey had been seen washing himself at Kealfadda Bridge. It’s impossible to wash yourself at Kealfadda Bridge. It’s a mudhole - if you try walking in there, you would end up to your waist in mud. I knew straightaway something was amiss when I heard that,” he said

* Martin Graham dismissed as “rubbish” a suggestion by the State that he and Russell Barrett, who is now deceased, had come to believe that Mr Bailey had murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier and were planning to ask himself to give himself up.

Mr O’Higgins SC said that Det Fitzgerald would say that he met Mr Graham one day while he was walking a dog near the home of Mr Barrett where Mr Bailey had stayed.

Det Garda Fitzgerald would say that Mr Graham told him that “after all that had happened in the house, Russell Barrett thought Ian Bailey was guilty too” and that the two of them were thinking of asking him to give himself up, said Mr O’Higgins

“No, rubbish. Never happened,” said Mr Graham, adding that he and Mr Barrett “never colluded in anything”. It would have made no sense for him to talk to Mr Barrett about the matter as “to tell Russell Barrett would have blown the whole secret with the gardaí”, he said.

* The Garda file on the murder remains open and is reviewed regularly by a team who were not involved in the original investigation but are familiar with the file. If new information comes to light, it is fully followed up, the court heard. Chief Supt Hayes explained how gardaí had investigated after a German national who had been living in West Cork at the time of the murder took his own life in Germany.

Gardaí had received reports that he had left a suicide note

They made contact with the German authorities amid suggestions that the man’s suicide may have been related to the death of Ms Toscan du Plantier in the hope that the note may have shed light on this but there was no such suicide note, he added.

Gardaí also followed up on reports that a car was sighted at a filling station in Skibbereen on December 20th, 1996 and that there was a man in the car which was being driven by a woman who looked like Ms Toscan du Plantier, he said.

However, gardaí carried out further inquiries and were satisfied that the description of the car at the filling station in Skibbereen did not match the description of the car that Ms Toscan du Plantier had hired at Cork Airport. Gardaí were able to rule it out of their inquiry, he said.