Toscan du Plantier family have interviews wiped from Jim Sheridan series

Sky to remove contributions after family object to documentary’s take on Ian Bailey

Ian Bailey: ‘I don’t want sympathy, particularly, all I want is honest, truthful objectivity.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Ian Bailey: ‘I don’t want sympathy, particularly, all I want is honest, truthful objectivity.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Broadcaster Sky has agreed to a request from the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier to remove interviews with them from a new documentary on the killing by film-maker Jim Sheridan.

Ms Toscan du Plantier, a French television producer, was beaten to death outside her holiday home near Toormore, Schull, Co Cork, on December 23rd, 1996.

Nobody has been convicted in the Irish courts of the murder of the 39-year-old mother of one. Journalist Ian Bailey, who was arrested twice by gardaí and questioned over the killing, strongly denies any involvement.

Ms Toscan du Plantier’s uncle Jean-Pierre Gazeau wrote this week to Sky, which is due to begin airing the series on Sky Crime on Sunday, requesting that all interviews with her family be removed from the series.

The Irish Times understands that Mr Gazeau and other members of the family were unhappy with the way the five-part series portrayed Mr Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas, as victims in the case.

The family had seen the series, Murder at the Cottage: The Search of Justice for Sophie, by the six-time Oscar-nominated Irish director Sheridan as part of an agreement that they could view it prior to broadcast.

The family said they had understood the series would be about getting justice for Ms Toscan du Plantier and that was the clear impression they were given at an introductory meeting with the production team in May 2015.

But the family told Sky they could not subscribe to any view that Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas were the victims of “a vast police plot”, particularly after what emerged in a number of civil and criminal trials related to the case.

French conviction

They cited Mr Bailey’s libel action against newspapers in 2003, his civil action against the Irish State in 2015 and his criminal trial in France in 2019 as offering evidence that challenged the portrayal of him as a victim.

Mr Bailey was convicted of voluntary homicide in his absence and without legal representation following a four-day trial in France in May 2019 and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

The family have claimed the interviews they gave had little to with the original project as it was presented to them as a search for justice for Ms Toscan du Plantier but “rather aims to demonstrate the innocence of Ian Bailey”.

Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family were particularly upset about the fifth and final episode, which showed photos of her body at the scene, as well as how the episode portrayed Mr Bailey’s trial in France.

The episode carries details of developments in the trial that are then juxtaposed with comments by Mr Bailey at his home in Schull as the evidence presented at the Paris court is relayed to him.

At the trial the family’s lawyer, Marie Dose, denounced the relaying of the details to Mr Bailey in Ireland as “a shameful masquerade”.

It is understood Sky pointed out in response to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family that they had formally agreed to be interviewed for the series and that had given their written consent in 2015 for the interviews to be used.

Sky also rejected any suggestion that the interviews with Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family for the series were obtained under false pretences.

However, Sky said that it would remove the interviews out of respect for Ms Toscan du Plantier, even though they felt the episodes benefited from viewers being able to hear the voices of her family. They also agreed to remove the photos of her body from the fifth episode but left in the footage from the French trial.

Bailey’s response

Mr Bailey told The Irish Times he had not seen the series even though he had been working with Mr Sheridan on the project for the past six years and had given him exclusive interview access.

“I don’t know what to expect really. I’m hoping that Jim Sheridan will be objective and reasonable – objective would be the word I would use – I don’t want sympathy, particularly, all I want is honest, truthful objectivity.”

Mr Bailey, who has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder, said he was “mildly curious” about the series but given that he doesn’t have access to Sky TV, it might be some time before he could see it.

“I’m not particularly looking forward to it but it’s something that’s happening – what I am looking forward to is a point where I can get back to being left alone and being creative.”

Attempts by The Irish Times to contact Jim Sheridan or series producer Donal MacIntyre for comment proved unsuccessful.