The son of murdered French film producer, Sophie Toscan du Plantier has issued an emotional appeal to the people of West Cork to travel to Paris to testify in the trial of English journalist Ian Bailey.
Pierre Louis Baudey Vignaud (38) was just 15 when his mother, Ms Toscan du Plantier (39) was battered to death at her holiday home near Schull in West Cork in December 1996 and together with his family, he has campaigned to have Mr Bailey tried in France for her murder.
Mr Bailey (62), who has denied any involvement in the killing or ever making any admissions in relation to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death, is due to go on trial in absentia at the Cours de Assis in Paris on May 27th. Four days have been set aside for the hearing.
This weekend, Mr Baudey Vignaud and his uncle, Ms Toscan du Plantier's brother, Bertrand Bouniol travelled to West Cork and attended a mass at Goleen where he appealed to anyone who has been asked by the French authorities to go to France to do so in order to ensure a credible hearing.
“I would appeal to anyone who has received a request from the French authorities to attend the trial to do so and give their evidence to ensure that it is a full and proper and credible trial process and we can find out as much as we can about what happened to my mother and get justice for her,” he said.
Mr Baudey Vignaud said he had spent a lot of time in recent months studying the French investigation file begun by French magistrate, Judge Patrick Gachon and completed by his successor, Judge Natalie Dutartre.
“It was more than hard to read the file including the autopsy - it was a real struggle for me because for years I would not have been able to do it but I am strong enough now and having read the file.”
‘A dark page’
Mr Bouniol said it will be very difficult for his elderly parents, Georges and Marguerite to sit through the trial and the details of how their daughter was murdered but it was an important step for them on a journey which they hope will end what they believe will be justice for his sister.
He told massgoers at the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea and St Patrick in Goleen that his mother always had great trust in the people of West Cork and that was why she opened her door that night to her killer. But he said he knew that the killer did not reflect the values of West Cork.
"In a few days time the trial of the man accused of killing my mother will begin at last - this is a trial of a crime that does not fit with what Ireland is like and does not fit with what you, the Irish people … this is a trial of a crime that you and I did not deserve, whether it takes places here or in France."
Describing his mother’s death as “a dark page” in the history of both his family and Schull, he said he believed he and the people of West Cork need to turn this page together and that was why he was pleading with any potential witnesses to travel to Paris to testify.
“This land must end this crime which is neither a mystery nor a legend - my mother, Sophie is not a ghost - she is the victim of human cruelty and violence which has no place here,” he said.
His mother, he added, defended herself “to her last breath” to try “escape the savage and brutal violence” of her killer.
He recalled his mother’s resilience and how he believed she fought “like a lioness against the most atrocious violence used by a monster that nothing stops” but despite the terrible fate she suffered in Ireland, he continued to visit West Cork because he shared his mother’s faith and trust in Irish people.
“I still come back here every year because it is the only way for me to defy this violence and destroy it - for 20 years, I’ve trusted you - don’t betray me, don’t betray yourself - if you have evidence that can assist in this trial, please come to Paris to help get some closure for my family but also for West Cork.”