Christmas always a time of contrasts, says family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on anniversary

Family of murdered French woman (39) mark 24th anniversary of killing

The family of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier have spoken about how her killing has changed their experience of Christmas as they prepare to mark the 24th anniversary of her killing in west Cork.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's brother, Bertrand Bouniol, told The Irish Times Christmas was always a difficult time for him and his elderly parents, Georges and Marguerite, and Ms Toscan du Plantier's son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, since the killing.

"Christmas is always a period of contrast for us – I will never forget Christmas 1996 when I travelled with my parents and my aunt, Marie Madeline Opalka, to Cork after we learned that Sophie had been murdered in West Cork.

“People around us in Cork were happy celebrating Christmas and we were ravaged by Sophie’s death and that memory remains with me to this day so Christmas is always difficult for us.

“I remember too coming back to Paris on the day after Christmas Day and going to my in-laws and having to explain to my three children why I had not been able to be with them on Christmas morning”

Mr Bouniol said he and his family and his parents, Georges and Marguerite, will be joined by Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis, and his wife, Aurelia, and their two children, Sophie (8) and Louis (7), in Paris for Christmas Day.

But west Cork and what happened to his sister at her holiday home in Toormore where she was found murdered on the morning of December 23rd, 1996, will never be far from their thoughts throughout the Christmas period

“We will take care of my parents, who are now quite elderly, and we will have a very simple Christmas with them and Pierre Louis and his wife and children here in Paris,” he said

“It will be a simple family event for us all, but our thoughts will be in Toormore in west Cork as we think about Sophie and all the happiness that she never lived to enjoy because of what her killer did.”

Mr Bouniol said the family were pleased in 2019 when English journalist Ian Bailey (63) was convicted of his sister's murder in his absence by the Cour d'Assises in Paris and sentenced to 25 years in jail for the crime.

But this year, Mr Bouniol's hope of getting justice for his sister turned to disappointment when the High Court in Dublin refused to extradite Mr Bailey to France to serve the sentence imposed on him by Judge Frederique Aline.

“Last year was important year for us because of the trial in Paris and the verdict of the court but this year was not so good and we don’t know how 2021 will evolve but we will still be fighting.”

Meanwhile, one of the senior officers involved in the investigation of Ms Toscan du Plantier's murder has begun legal proceedings against Mr Bailey over comments he made on The Neil Prendeville Show on Cork's Red FM.

Retired Chief Supt Dermot Dwyer was one of leading investigators in the case, and he confirmed to The Irish Times he has issued legal proceedings against Mr Bailey over the interview, but he declined to comment further.

Mr Bailey also declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The Irish Times but it’s understood that Mr Dwyer’s letter sent by solicitors, PJ O’Driscoll & Sons seeks a retraction, apology and damages from Mr Bailey.

In the radio interview, which was broadcast on October 28th last, just weeks after the High Court ruled against extraditing Mr Bailey to France, Mr Bailey was highly critical of the Garda investigation that identified him as a suspect.

And in the course of expressing his views about how gardaí came to identify him as a suspect, he made reference to Mr Dwyer who was a detective superintendent at the time and centrally involved in the investigation.

Mr Bailey was twice arrested by gardaí for questioning about Ms Toscan du Plantier, but he was released without charge on each occasion, and the DPP later ruled the evidence against him did not merit a prosecution.

Mr Bailey has repeatedly denied that he killed Ms Toscan du Plantier, while he also repeatedly denied that he ever admitted killing her to a number of witnesses who testified to that effect at various court cases.