Belfast Telegraph

Du Plantier case lawsuit to begin

A hugely-anticipated lawsuit is set to begin tomorrow over an Englishman's claims that he was wrongly arrested over the murder of a French film-maker in Ireland almost two decades ago.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was beaten to death on a freezing night outside her holiday home on a remote west Cork hillside on December 23 1996.

Ian Bailey, 57, a former freelance journalist originally from the Manchester area, was arrested twice over the 39-year-old's murder, but never prosecuted.

The killing remains unsolved and Mr Bailey is suing for wrongful arrest.

The High Court civil action in Dublin could run for more than six weeks.

After the jury of eight men and four women was sworn in, Judge John Hedigan said he wanted to give them a "heads-up" and "gentle warnings".

"The judge decides the law," he said.

"These are the fundamentals of the jury trial. The judge decides the law, the jury decides the facts. Everyone is bound by the judge's decision on the law.

"The judge is a kind of referee. I'm here to ensure that it is conducted fairly and in accordance with the law."

On the eve of the first day of evidence at the Four Courts, Judge Hedigan told the jury not to research the case on the internet, not to read media reports of the hearings and not to discuss the case with anyone.

He urged them to respect each other's views, listen carefully to witness testimony and to keep an open mind until the end.

"The parties and the court rely upon you to bring your own experience of life and common sense to bear," Judge Hedigan said.

"Take your time, have confidence in yourselves to make the decisions.

"It's to your own experience and common sense that we look to you to make a decision on the facts."

Judge Hedigan told the jury they are required to bring in a verdict on the balance of probabilities.

Mr Bailey, who has lived in west Cork for 23 years and has an address in Liscaha, Schull, was first arrested over the du Plantier killing in February 1997, and again in January the following year.

Two years later the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided he should not be prosecuted.

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