Man known to French woman may be on video

 

GARDAI believe they may have identified a man known to Frenchwoman Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier, on video footage at Cork Airport. The identification has not been confirmed but the man is similar in appearance to a male believed to have been known to Ms Toscan du Plantier and who may have travelled from France on the same day to Cork.

The Frenchwoman was beaten to death on the Sunday night before Christmas near Goleen, Co Cork, in a remote country laneway. Investigating gardai are continuing to examine the video footage. They are expected to travel to France later in the week to liaise with French police and continue the investigation there.

It has also been revealed that Ms Toscan du Plantier spoke to her husband by telephone on the night she was murdered and, according to gardai, was not in any way distressed.

She rang Mr Daniel Toscan du Plantier (55), at 11 p.m. on Sunday night and, according to gardai, the film producer said the conversation was "very convivial" and his wife did not appear in any way upset. It is thought she may also have made a second telephone call to her 15 year old son.

Gardai are unsure of the exact time of the woman's death. Her body was not discovered on the boreen below her holiday home until the following morning at 10 a.m. by her neighbour, Ms Shirley Foster, who lives next door with her partner, Mr Alfie Lyons. It was some hours later before it was examined by the State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison.

Gardai believe Ms Toscan du Plantier may have known her killer. Her home was undisturbed and there were no signs of a break in. Two wine glasses had been left on the draining board by the sink in the kitchen. Although they were rinsed, gardai believe they may prove to be vital forensic evidence.

It appears that Ms Toscan du Plantier was dragged from the house down the pathway to the boreen below some time late on Saturday night Sunday morning. She was beaten viciously around the head and upper body area, at least 11 times with a blunt instrument perhaps a poker.

She had a number of defensive wounds on her hands and arms. It appears that a large stone or block was dropped on her head as she lay on the ground.

There was a mass of blood around her body and further drops of blood in the surrounding areas towards the house. Gardai made an appeal yesterday to anyone in the area who may be harbouring the assailant or who may have suspicions about the identity of who carried out the attack.

Chief Supt Noel Smith, the officer in charge of the investigation, said that whoever carried out the murder must also have been injured and may have blood or "marks around the face as a result. "There may also be spatterings of blood on clothing.

"We appeal to anyone with any doubts to come forward. What they say will be treated in the strictest of confidence," he told The Irish Times.

Chief Supt Smith said gardai had not established that Ms Toscan de Plantier had been in bed just before the attack even though the bed was unmade. She was wearing a white top, Lycra leggings and a pair of boots at the time of the murder.

Strands of bloodstained hair were found between her finger nails. The results of the considerable forensic evidence removed from the scene are expected within the next few days and should go a long way towards filling in the many blanks in the investigation.

The front and back doors of the house were both closed and latched at the time the body was found and gardai believe the killer may have gone back to the house after the attack.

The heavy gate at the entrance to the laneway, about 100 yards from the house, was wide open. Gardai say Ms Toscan de Plantier was always particular about keeping it closed and that it would take considerable strength to open it fully.

It is believe that gardai may have identified up to four suspects locally. Last night Chief Supt Smith could not confirm that a man had been identified on videotape at Cork Airport. He said the search through the video footage was continuing.

"We are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. We can't say that we have a definite fix on a local suspect or one from abroad," he said.

The December sun shone brilliantly over a calm and brilliant blue Dunmanas Bay yesterday. West Cork was it its most beautiful. It was easy to see how Ms Toscan de Plantier and many thousands of others were drawn back to this area each year. But yesterday there was a new spot on the map to visit the scene of her murder at the top of a remote country road.

As gardai continued to search through mountainous fields full of rushes in front of her holiday home, cars made their way up the narrow and rocky boreen to see where she had been slain. At one point, the gardai were diverted from their work when they assisted a local motorist whose car had become bogged down.

In churches around west Cork yesterday, Ms Toscan du Plantier was prayed for as the hunt for her killer enters a second week.