Belfast Telegraph

Murder victim 'in Paris bar fight'

A French film-maker had a cat fight with her husband's mistress at a party in Paris days before her murder, a court has heard.

Former journalist Ian Bailey, who alleges he was framed for the unsolved killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996, claimed there is a French connection to her death.

The reporter, who moved to the region from England more than 23 years ago, is suing the Irish state after being arrested twice during the open murder investigation.

Under cross examination in the High Court in Dublin, the 57-year-old claimed Mme Toscan du Plantier fought with her husband Daniel's lover in a bar in Paris on the Wednesday before her death.

The 39-year-old's battered and bloodied body was found on a hillside outside her west Cork holiday home on the morning of Monday December 23 1996 - two days before Christmas.

When asked if he was pointing the finger of blame at the late Mr Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey said: "I'm not exactly saying those words."

Mr Bailey described Mme Toscan du Plantier as the film mogul's "third trophy wife".

He told the court that he was being given information on the couple from French journalists and that he was aware that Mr Toscan du Plantier had settled two divorces amicably, that the couple had split and that there was a mistress on the scene who the film boss subsequently married.

"Her life in France was far too complicated and then out of France came stories about how close they were," Mr Bailey told the court.

The jury of eight men and four women heard the fight occurred at the Christmas party for the Unifrance film promotion board which Mr Toscan du Plantier ran for eight years before his death in 2003.

"There was a cat fight in a bar ... so this is background really. It would have been very interesting if there had been a serious investigation into it but there never was," he said.

Mr Bailey, giving evidence for a fifth day, said he thought it was strange that Mr Toscan du Plantier did not travel immediately to Ireland following his wife's killing - to visit the crime scene or identify her body.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice in connection with the murder of Mme Toscan du Plantier, first on February 10 1997 and again in January 1998.

He was never charged and denies any involvement in her death.

"I believe to this day, that there was a French connection," he told the court.

"My only agenda would be that of finding out the truth of the story.

"There were clear indications from France that were not being followed up."

Mr Bailey added: "It was a long time ago, so I can't remember exactly but I can tell you this, it was very, very strange. It was weird."

A packed number three courtroom in the Four Courts heard Mr Bailey was detained several days after what he called a "black joke" with a newspaper editor that he was the murderer.

Former news editor with the now defunct Sunday Tribune, Helen Callanan, contacted detectives on February 1 1997 over the admission, allegedly made during a phone call as Mr Bailey was working freelance for the paper.

Ten days later he was taken in for questioning.

The court heard Ms Callanan asked Mr Bailey about rumours circulating that he was a suspect and that he had committed the murder.

Mr Bailey told the jury: "I said to her who is saying this. She said I can't tell you and I said it's been suggested I did the murder here to get a story. This was taken subsequently as what the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) called an informal innocuous admission.

"The DPP looked at it and said it was the antithesis of an admission and that it was an example of my black humour."

Mr Bailey said it was a regrettable remark.

The court heard further detail of the conversation from Mr Bailey: "I said 'oh yeah, it was me. I did it to get a story'. It was her interpretation. It was obviously very foolish of me to have ever gone there."

Mr Bailey told the court he had warned Ms Callanan during a phone call that her suggestions were defamatory and would be worth IR£20,000 if he took it court.

The court also heard details of a statement made to gardai by a teenager after Mr Bailey gave him a lift into west Cork from Schull.

Malachy Reed, 14 at the time of the alleged incident on February 6 1997, said that Mr Bailey had admitted the murder while drunk.

The court heard the pair were in a white Ford Fiesta and as they passed near to the murder scene Mr Bailey told the teenager: "I went up there with a block one night and bashed her f****** brains in."

Mr Bailey denied making the remark, saying: "I wasn't drunk and I did not say it."

Almost 20 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.

The court heard one of Mr Bailey's claims is that he was not read his rights at his home, the Prairie Cottage, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork on the day of his first arrest.

The court was shown an extract from a diary written by Mr Bailey that details how one of the officers handcuffed him at the house and informed him of his rights.

The hearing is set to run for several more weeks.

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