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French court to give verdict on trial of Ian Bailey over murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Bailey is not present at the trial, which began earlier this week.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A FRENCH COURT will today hand down its ruling in the trial of retired journalist Ian Bailey, who is accused of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996. 

Bailey (62) – originally from the UK – has long denied killing du Plantier at her Cork holiday home.

He was arrested for questioning twice by gardaí, but was never charged and continues to live near the home where du Plantier was staying in Schull. 

Despite the lack of DNA evidence at the scene of the crime, he soon became the main suspect in the case, partly due to scratches on his arms and forehead, which he attributed to dealing with a Christmas tree and carving a turkey for dinner.

French authorities issued warrants for Bailey’s arrest in 2010 and 2016, but Ireland refused both requests, citing the lack of a reciprocal extradition deal between the two countries.

France moved ahead with a trial following a complaint by du Plantier’s family in 1997. The trial began in a Paris court earlier this week, with Bailey being tried in absentia. 

A verdict is due to be handed down later today. 

The murder

Injuries to du Plantier’s hands showed that she had struggled to defend herself on the night she was murdered, and a large rock and a bloodstained concrete block were found near her body.

An editor at the former Sunday Tribune newspaper – who had employed Bailey to write about the murder – sent a statement to the court alleging that Bailey had told her he had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his journalism career.

A second witness, Bill Fuller, a cook and former friend of Bailey, told the court that the suspect had confessed to him in an odd conversation during which he referred to himself in the second person.

“It’s you who killed her,” Fuller remembered Bailey saying, adding that Bailey had been sexually attracted to her and often talked about himself in the second person.

“You went to her house at 2am to try your luck. You scared her and to calm her down you hit her, but it went too far,” Fuller quoted Bailey as saying, according to remarks relayed by the French court translator.

Bailey has long denied any involvement with the murder. His solicitor Frank Buttimer said previously that his client has always extended his deepest sympathy to the family on their loss.

Buttimer believes that the Irish Government and Department of Justice have facilitated the trial in France by their “proactive assistance”.

“What the Department is doing is grossly unfair to my client and is completely disregarding the decision of our lawmakers. This whole affair is extremely stressful and damaging to Mr Bailey and it is interfering greatly with his life,” he said in the past.

Buttimer previously said the criminal trial is just a “show piece trial” to satisfy certain interests in France.

 Guilty 

Speaking in court this week,  a lawyer for the victim’s family, Marie Dose, said:

“You have absolutely everything you need to convict him: the victim’s wounds, the wounds on the killer, his incoherent account of what he was doing, the information he gave before anyone else.

“And you have the sexual motive: He was obsessed with her, he wrote it down on page after page in his notebooks,” Dose said.

He had been drinking, it was a full moon, he was excited,” she said, but when his advances were refused, “he went into a murderous rage.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was 39 when she was murdered. Her husband Daniel Toscan du Plantier, the former director-general of the Gaumont Film Company, died in 2003.

Her parents, son and other people close to her were present for the trial.

“I can only regret that the defendant is not here today,” said her son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, accusing Bailey of a “very great lack of courage”.

With reporting from © – AFP 2019 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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