Warrant issued in Toscan du Plantier murder inquiry

 

FRENCH AUTHORITIES investigating the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork over 13 years ago have issued an arrest warrant for English journalist Ian Bailey for the purpose of being charged in connection with the case.

The European arrest warrant was received by the Department of Justice, which is the central authority for processing such warrants in Ireland, on March 10th and has been referred to the Attorney General for legal advice, it is understood.

Ms Toscan du Plantier (39) was murdered outside her isolated holiday home at Toormore near Schull in west Cork on the night of December 22nd, 1996, just days before she was due to return to France for Christmas.

Mr Bailey (53) was twice arrested for questioning by gardaí, on February 10th, 1997, and again on January 22nd, 1998, but was released without charge on each occasion.

He has continually protested his innocence of any involvement in the killing.

Two years ago, the French authorities appointed a magistrate, Judge Patrick Gachon, to investigate Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder under a provision of French law which allows the French authorities to investigate the death of a French citizen abroad.

Last year, following the decision by the DPP not to prosecute anyone on foot of a review of the original Garda handling of the case, Commissioner Fachtna Murphy indicated that both the file on the killing and the review file could be made available to the French authorities.

Last June, Judge Gachon and a fellow magistrate, Judge Nathalie Dutartre, travelled to Cork to examine the scene of the killing and carry out inquiries while two gardaí travelled to Paris in October to testify before Judge Gachon on the Irish investigation.

News that the French authorities were seeking an arrest warrant for Mr Bailey was yesterday welcomed by the family of Ms Toscan du Plantier. Her uncle, Jean Pierre Gazeau, described it as another important step in their quest for justice.

“I spoke to Sophie’s parents, Georges and Marguerite [Bouniol] today and they welcome the development but it is just one step and we have many more steps to travel on this road and our objective remains the same – to find out the truth and get justice for Sophie,” he said.

Mr Gazeau said there appeared to be many contradictions between what Mr Bailey said at his libel action against several newspapers in 2003 and what other witnesses said and it would be helpful if Mr Bailey could clarify these contradictions in France.

“Of course, everything is being done within the framework of the French justice system where the présomption d’innocence is central and we respect that – today is an important step in search for justice and truth, which is a universal need,” he said.

Contacted at his home in Schull, Mr Bailey, who is preparing for his final-year law exams at University College Cork next month, said he would not be making any comment and any queries should be addressed to his solicitor, Frank Buttimer.

Mr Buttimer said Mr Bailey had been surprised by the news of the arrest warrant as the French authorities had never made any contact with him at any stage to seek to speak to him in relation to the death of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

Mr Buttimer said Mr Bailey would vigorously contest any extradition proceedings and he found it extraordinary that the French authorities were seeking an extradition based on an Irish police file when the DPP had examined the same file and decided not to prosecute here.