Belfast Telegraph

Bailey missed mother's funeral

A former journalist who claims he was framed for the unsolved murder of a French film-maker in Ireland has told a court the cruellest event was being forced to miss his mother's funeral.

Ian Bailey, 57, an English reporter who moved to west Cork more than 23 years ago, is suing the Irish state after being arrested twice over the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The 39-year-old producer was found by two neighbours beaten to death outside her holiday home on a remote west Cork hillside on the morning of December 23 1996.

Mr Bailey denies any involvement in the death and was never charged.

In his third day of evidence in the High Court in Dublin, the law graduate composed himself before revealing his grief over the death of his mother Brenda in 2010 aged 87.

"I have not been able to mourn her properly. I'm sorry," he said, pausing briefly.

"And I think this is the cruellest abuse of this whole thing."

Mr Bailey could not leave Ireland as French authorities had issued a European Arrest Warrant after launching an investigation into the death of Mme Toscan du Plantier - wife of late French film-maker Daniel Toscan du Plantier.

Under French law its authorities can investigate the death of a citizen overseas.

Almost 20 years on from the unsolved murder, Mr Bailey is suing the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General for wrongful arrest and the handling of the investigations.

The jury of eight men and four women has been told the state denies all claims.

Mr Bailey said he was suing the state "to clear my name".

He added: "To try, ultimately, to try to knock out this dirty, rotten, stinking lie that was perpetrated deliberately by members of An Garda Siochana. There's no other format, this is why."

The court was told he has been through a libel trial, which he ultimately settled against five newspapers, leaving him with a 250,000 euro legal bill.

Mr Bailey revealed his arrest in February 2010 after the warrant from Paris was activated.

He had received a phone call from a French journalist at 7.30pm on the night he was taken in warning him of his imminent detention. Subsequently up to seven gardai arrived at his front door at the Prairie Cottage, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, at 11.55pm.

Mr Bailey told the jury he was taken to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin to wait for an extradition hearing in the High Court.

"I was put in a cell you wouldn't put a dog in," he told the jury.

"It was foul. I was there for 29 minutes and they came in with a sandwich for me and I could not eat it because of the stink of urine and shit."

Mr Bailey said the entire episode since his first arrest in February 1997, the second in January 1998 and the later detention under the extradition bid has been a chilling experience.

"I used my (law) studies in effect as a shield so that my mind was not wracked by the thought of being surrendered and rendered to the French republic," he said.

And he hit out at the State: "It's still being defended tooth and nail - a total state of denial, a total state of denial by An Garda Siochana."

The attempt to extradite Mr Bailey was defeated in the Supreme Court in 2012.

The jury were told heard that documents were disclosed to Mr Bailey's lawyers alleging efforts by gardai in Bandon station to urge state solicitor Malachy Boohig to bring charges.

Asked to outline the gist of the allegations, Mr Bailey told the jurors: "It was pointed out to him by one of the officers that he was in college with (former justice minister) John O'Donoghue and that he use his influence with him to bring a prosecution."

Mr Bailey, who has since graduated with a law degree, was born in Manchester and moved to Gloucestershire when he was nine and embarked on a career as a freelance journalist in Cheltenham in the 1980s.

He walked away from the media business in 1991 after becoming disillusioned and moved to Ireland, settling briefly in Waterford and then west Cork.

Mr Bailey said he was making inroads to get back into the industry when Mme Toscan du Plantier was murdered.

He claims he co-operated with the gardai from the outset.

Relaying the late night arrest under the European Arrest Warrant in February 2010, Mr Bailey said he did not know who the men were at his door when the gardai called.

"My initial thought was when I heard the car pull up it was a recollection of Liam Hogan's death threat. I did not know what was going on. It was very, very frightening," he told the court.

Yesterday in evidence Mr Bailey named Mr Hogan as the driver of the Garda car on the day of his first arrest and accused him of warning him that he would be found shot dead.

The hearing continues and is expected to last at least six weeks.

The court was told that, on the custody record from Mr Bailey's first arrest, his height was recorded as a number of inches shorter than his true measurement of 6ft 4in.

Mr Bailey told the jury he believes there are files from the Director of Public Prosecutions' offices which prove he was innocent of the murder of Mme Toscan du Plantier.

He added: "Why, in a Catholic country, it is not possible for someone to admit and to say mea culpa, you have done something wrong, I don't know."

Mr Bailey told the court that he believes Marie Farrell, a shopkeeper in Schull who retracted statements she made to the Garda investigators, was a victim, as is the family of Mme Toscan du Plantier.

"I firmly believe that I'm a victim of this but that she was a victim. She was put in a very, very difficult situation that was not of her own volition, not of her own making," he said.

On one occasion in 2005 Mr Bailey sent a letter to the French embassy in Dublin offering to meet an investigator being sent over to examine the case.

Mr Bailey outlined some of the physical and emotional impacts the murder investigation had had on him.

He slept for only two or three hours a night in the year after the first arrest, he was haunted by a recurrent dream of being hunted like an animal, and a rash broke out on his neck which he believes was a physical manifestation of stress.

Mr Bailey likened his mental state to depression and said he no longer trusts strangers.

"My mind was very, very troubled for a very, very long time. Despair - a feeling of absolute helplessness for the situation I was in ... just being in a very dark place," he said.

Mr Bailey told the court he is only just getting over it.

"For many years the joy (sic) de vivre had just gone and now I'm just beginning to get that back," he said.

Mr Bailey told the jury he suffered hostility when he began law studies at University College Cork in 2007 but that lifted as he completed his Masters five years later.

As his evidence drew to a close, Mr Bailey again explained the reasons behind the lawsuit.

"I'm bringing these proceedings because they are the only proceedings I can bring to seek compensation for the wrongs that have been done to me," he said.

"It's been a long, hard struggle to get here. I just hope that this settles something."

Cross-examination of Mr Bailey also began and he was asked about a brief period of time he spent in America in the late 1980s.

He said he was in Charlotte, South Carolina, where he worked on trees, played rugby and tried to source stories, including one about gambling on a Native American reservation .

The hearing resumes on Tuesday morning.

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