Belfast Telegraph

Journalist admits domestic violence

A former journalist who claims he was wrongly made a suspect in the unsolved murder of a French film maker in Ireland has admitted beating his partner three times.

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

The 39-year-old producer was found by two neighbours beaten to death on a hillside outside her holiday home in a remote part of west Cork two days before Christmas 1996.

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

Under cross examination in the High Court in Dublin, the 57-year-old was forced to recount his history of violence and a litany of injuries his partner Jules Thomas suffered at his hands.

Admitting he had been "seriously violent" towards his Welsh-born artist girlfriend three times, Mr Bailey said they separated from several months in mid-1996 after she sought a protection order against him.

"It's common knowledge to my eternal shame that in the past when I used to drink spirits, that to my eternal shame, that I was involved in incidents of domestic violence with Ms Thomas," Mr Bailey said.

"I don't know what I can say about that other than to say it's to my eternal shame."

In the most recent beating, in August 2001, the court heard Mr Bailey hit Ms Thomas across the face, body and limbs with a crutch after she woke him from a nap on a sofa in their home, the Prairie Cottage in Liscaha, near Schull, west Cork.

Mr Bailey pleaded guilty to an assault charge and was given a suspended sentence.

Prior to that, in May 1996, Mr Bailey told the court he pulled out a 4cm clump of Ms Thomas' hair, left her with a closed black eye, in need of stitches inside her mouth and bruising to the face and head, hands and arms after a row broke out in her car as she drove them home from a west Cork pub.

Ms Thomas was kept in hospital in Cork city for one night after the attack and the couple separated and got back together before Christmas.

Mr Bailey told the court Ms Thomas grabbed him when they were in her car after a night socialising and drinking. He reacted by pushing her away before attacking her.

He was shown four photos of injuries to Ms Thomas but refused to detail them to the jury.

Pressed on the injuries by senior counsel for the State, Luan O Braonain, Mr Bailey agreed Ms Thomas was shown with a closed, blackened right eye, bandaged and badly bruised arms.

The couple have been side by side since the case started over a week ago.

In the earliest violent attack, from 1993, the court heard Mr Bailey attacked Ms Thomas after waking from sleep with a nosebleed and lashing out.

Almost 20 years on from the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey is suing the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General for wrongful arrest and the handling of the murder investigation.

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

Mr Bailey was arrested twice on suspicion of the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, first on February 10 1997 and again in January 20 1998, his birthday.

He told the court he was "1000%" sure he had never met the film maker in the months before her death.

Mr Bailey wrote a series of articles for the Irish Daily Star and Sunday Tribune in the days and weeks after the murder, the court heard.

During questioning on his domestic violence, Mr Bailey revealed it was known around the townland of Liscaha and in Schull that he had beaten Ms Thomas.

"People would have been aware," he told the court.

"I don't know if it was plain for people to see it. It was common knowledge or there was knowledge of it."

Mr Bailey told the court his attacks on his partner were "disgraceful violence" but insisted the reasons "have long been cured".

"The point is this - whatever my shortcomings, to the day I die I'll be ashamed of that," Mr Bailey said.

"But what was subsequently done to me to try and put me in a box and bury me, it pails on the scales."

Mr Bailey rejected assertions that he had been shunned in the west Cork area after news of his attack on Ms Thomas emerged publicly in 2001.

"I was not aware that I was shunned," he told the court.

"Unfortunately as we know domestic violence is very common. There were many other people without mentioning other names in the locality that have had incidents of domestic violence."

Mr Bailey added: "I was not the only person in west Cork for example that was guilty of domestic violence when drink was involved."

The case is expected to last another five weeks.

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