Belfast Telegraph

English suspect 'was victimised'

A former journalist has told a court he was given a coded message about being English while under interrogation for the unsolved murder of a French film-maker in Ireland.

Ian Bailey, who is suing the Irish State for wrongful arrest in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation, claimed he was victimised in custody because of where he was from.

The 57-year-old told the High Court in Dublin that there was strong xenophobia among detectives at the time of his first arrest in February 1997.

Mr Bailey said he was given a black and tan shirt to wear - suggesting a reference to British auxiliary forces dispatched to Ireland during the War of Independence.

"It was not a complaint so much as an observation on the colour," he told the jury.

"It was a black and tan colouring and I just thought it was possibly a coded message ... because I'm English."

Mme Toscan du Plantier, 39, was found beaten to death on a hillside outside her west Cork holiday home on the morning of Monday December 23 1996.

Mr Bailey was arrested in February 1997, and again in January 1998 as part of the investigation - but never charged.

The former freelance reporter denies any involvement in the unsolved killing.

The court heard Mr Bailey did not complain at the time about the black and tan shirt he was given in Bandon Garda Station or the alleged victimisation because he was English.

He was released without charge and he also did not make a complaint at the end of the detention, the court heard.

Giving evidence for a sixth day in his civil action against the Irish State, Mr Bailey said he thought he was being victimised because he was English.

"It was made quite clear to me in the interrogation, if you think an Englishman is coming over here and is going to get away with this," he said.

"It definitely was. There was very strong, complete, xenophobia."

Mr Bailey was born in Manchester and brought up from the age of nine in the Gloucester area before embarking on a freelance journalism career in Cheltenham in the 1980s and some spells in London.

He moved to west Cork about 23 years ago.

Eighteen years on from the killing of Mme Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey is suing the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General for wrongful arrest and a series of other alleged failings in the murder investigation.

The State denies all claims.

Mr Bailey was questioned on transcripts of a series of interviews which took place following the first arrest.

The court heard officers seized a blue sweatshirt, a beige jacket, denim jeans and a purple-brown checked shirt from Mr Bailey's house, the Prairie Cottage in Liscaha, Schull, west Cork when he was detained.

An interview note read to the court stated that Mr Bailey was told blood had been found on the clothes.

According to the transcript, Mr Bailey replied that tests would clear his name.

Mr Bailey was also asked about discrepancies in his statements to detectives including whether he had got out of bed in the middle of the night when Mme Toscan du Plantier was murdered.

He said it was correct to say he had left his partner, Jules Thomas, in bed at some point in the middle of the night to go to the studio next to Prairie Cottage to write.

The interview transcripts noted that Mr Bailey repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder.

The court also heard that Mr Bailey described Mme Toscan du Plantier as "plain" during one Garda interview.

In the third interview, notes of the questioning showed Mr Bailey was told his partner had stated that he had left their bed in the middle of the night and when he got back in the following morning he had a mark on his head.

Mr Bailey denied that happened during the interview, the court was told.

The hearing, in front of a jury of eight men and four women, is set to run for several more weeks.

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