Belfast Telegraph

Ex-journalist 'threatened with French show trial over 20-year-old murder'

A former journalist is facing the prospect of a "show trial" in France over the murder of a film producer in Ireland 20 years ago, his lawyer has claimed.

Englishman Ian Bailey was arrested twice but never charged with the brutal killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, west Cork two days before Christmas in 1996.

He has always vehemently denied any involvement.

The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Assoph), founded by the dead woman's family, has been told that Mr Bailey is facing a second extradition warrant and a charge of voluntary homicide.

One of the lawyers working with Assoph, Laurent Pettiti, said the group was notified that an indictment of voluntary homicide was issued by the investigating magistrate in Paris, Nathalie Turquey, on July 27 and a European Arrest Warrant was sent to Irish authorities on July 13.

Frank Buttimer, solicitor for Mr Bailey, said the reported moves in Paris would lead to a "show trial".

"The Irish prosecutorial authorities have ruled there is no evidence in which (Mr Bailey) can be tried in this jurisdiction and France is going to use, it seems, evidence that the previous Director of Public Prosecutions described as flawed and prejudiced to put him on trial," he said.

Mr Buttimer said it would result "in what will be a show trial to satisfy French interests in circumstances where the injustice to Mr Bailey is appalling".

"Ian Bailey has had an extremely difficult life due to his being wrongly associated with this crime," he said.

"It continues to be his life. This is the next phase of the injustice."

Mr Bailey had not been informed of any legal moves in France against him, as he "is never told anything by the authorities", Mr Buttimer said.

"The Supreme Court has already said he cannot be sent for trial in France," he added.

Under French law, authorities can investigate the suspicious death of a citizen abroad.

The penalty for voluntary homicide is up to 30 years in jail.

Mr Bailey defeated a previous attempt by investigators to bring him to Paris as part of its inquiry into the murder.

In March 2012 he won a two-year legal battle in the Supreme Court in Dublin to stop his extradition for questioning.

The five-judge court agreed he could not be extradited under the law as there was no intention at that time to try him.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was married to the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a major player in French cinema who had close contacts with the upper echelons of government in Paris.

Assoph, set up to campaign over her murder, welcomed the reported development in the case.

"The decision to commit to a criminal trial represents an important milestone in the search for truth and justice about a horrendous crime that the Irish authorities have been, so far, unable to solve," the group said.

Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions previously decided that no-one would be charged in Ireland with the murder.

Even though Irish courts upheld his fight against extradition, Mr Bailey was unable to attend his mother Brenda's funeral in England in 2010 after she died aged 87.

He feared he would be arrested under a European Arrest Warrant if he travelled.

Last year the 59-year-old law graduate lost a marathon lawsuit against the Irish state over the handling of the Ms Toscan du Plantier murder investigation and a claim that detectives had tried to frame him.

Mr Bailey, who moved to Ireland from Cheltenham in the mid-90s, admitted during the case to beating his partner Jules Thomas three times.

He was arrested in connection with the French film-maker's murder in February 1997 and January 1998 but never charged.

The fallout from the case was not limited to the exposure of Mr Bailey's domestic violence, cannabis use and heavy drinking or assessments by Ireland's senior law officers that gardai botched the initial investigation.

As part of disclosures in the lawsuit it emerged that phone calls at Garda stations countrywide were recorded for years without the public's knowledge.

The courtroom defeat in his bid for damages was the second Mr Bailey suffered after he lost libel actions in 2003 against several newspapers over their reporting of the murder investigation and naming him as a suspect.


From Belfast Telegraph