Sophie du Plantier's widower dies at film event

The death has occurred of Daniel Toscan du Plantier, the widower of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who was murdered in west Cork …

The death has occurred of Daniel Toscan du Plantier, the widower of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who was murdered in west Cork on December 23rd, 1996. No one has ever been charged with her murder.

The cinema producer, who died yesterday at the age of 61, was hailed as the "ambassador" or "travelling salesman" of French cinema. For 30 years, he worked to ensure that French films were seen around the world. Mr Toscan du Plantier headed the "Académie des Césars", France's equivalent of the Oscars.

He suffered a heart attack as he left a screening of a film by Claude Chabrol at the Berlin Film Festival. President Jacques Chirac described him as "one of the most talented servants of the French cinema, one of its most determined advocates". The French Prime Minister, Mr Jean-Pierre Raffarin, spoke of his sadness, saying Mr Toscan du Plantier's death was "a loss for cinema and for culture".

In a recent radio interview, Mr Toscan du Plantier said he fell in love with cinema as a teenager in the Alpine town of Chambéry, when he saw Jean-Louis Barrault in La Symphonie Fantastique, about the life of the composer Hector Berlioz. His family moved to Paris, where he met Barrault's nephew at lycée. The actor's niece, Marie-Christine Barrault, became the first of Mr Toscan du Plantier's four wives. They had two children, David and Ariane.

Mr Toscan du Plantier started out in advertising but quickly moved to cinema, becoming a producer in 1975. He was known for bringing opera to the screen, and for seducing beautiful women including the actresses Isabelle Huppert, with whom he lived for a decade, and Isabella Rossellini. He had a son with his second wife, Francesca Comencini.

In an interview with The Irish Times in 1999, Mr Toscan du Plantier said he met his third wife, Sophie Bouniol, when he attempted to fire her on becoming the president of the film promotion board in 1988. He relented, and she agreed to date him only after he sent proof of his divorce from Ms Comencini to Ms Bouniol's mother.

The couple led a glamorous life, but Sophie Toscan du Plantier craved solitude, and he bought an an isolated house on Mizen Head, near Scull, for her as a gift.

He repeatedly expressed outrage that her killer was never charged. Although he used his friendships with France's leading politicians in an attempt to move the investigation forward, more than six years after the murder, her killer is still free.

In 1998, Mr Toscan du Plantier married a 29-year-old immigrant from eastern Europe, Ms Melita Nikolic. They had two children, Tosca and Maxime. His relationship with Ms Nikolic and her pregnancy became known several months before their marriage.

"You have to respond to death with life," he said. "It doesn't mean you don't love the marks left within you by the woman who has been taken from you. It doesn't lessen the misfortune. The memory and the suffering remain."

He said "death by murder is like a double death" because there was a human will behind it. "You say to yourself somewhere on earth is the person who did it; that there is a devil somewhere in the hills of southern Ireland."

Mr Toscan du Plantier did not return to Ireland for 3½ years after his wife's killing.

Gardaí in west Cork briefed him for two hours about their investigation, and he tempered his criticism of the Irish justice system.