Belfast Telegraph

I'm staying calm, says man convicted in France of woman's murder in Cork

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey
Sophie Toscan du Plantier who was murdered in Cork in 1996

By Nicola Anderson

Former journalist Ian Bailey yesterday declared that he was "staying calm in the eye of the hurricane" as he learned of his conviction for the murder of a French film director's wife in Ireland more than 20 years ago

Bailey (62), was convicted in his absence of killing 39-year-old Sophie Toscan du Plantier following a trial of only three days after the Irish authorities twice refused to extradite him.

He now faces the prospect of a new arrest warrant after being found guilty by a French criminal court of murdering the filmmaker 23 years ago. He was tried in absentia.

Sitting at home in west Cork, Ian Bailey had just received the phone call informing him that he had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

He said that he was "staying calm in the eye of the hurricane", explaining that writing poetry was his way of dealing with his situation, along with "Theravada forest Buddhism and detachment meditation".

Presiding judge Frederique Aline listed all the evidence presented to the court during the trial, saying there was "significant evidence" of Bailey's guilt.

She jailed Bailey for 25 years, ordered that a new EU arrest warrant be issued and said there would be an announcement on June 11 about how much compensation he would be ordered to pay Ms Toscan du Plantier's family.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's battered body was found on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas in 1996, a Paris court heard. She was the wife of celebrated cinematographer Daniel Toscan du Plantier and her death was one of Ireland's most famous unsolved killings.

Bailey, who lived three kilometres from Ms Toscan du Plantier, was arrested twice in connection with the death but was never charged, amid allegations of incompetence and corruption against local gardai.

Marie Farrell, the only witness to put him at the scene at the time of the killing, later retracted her evidence, claiming she had been groomed and bullied by investigators into giving false evidence.

The case has taken many twists and turns over the years, including Bailey bringing a successful defamation case against newspapers in 2014.

Frustrated by the lack of progress in Ireland, the French authorities started their own investigation in 2008 - even exhuming Ms Toscan du Plantier's body in the hope of finding further forensic evidence.

Bailey's trial at the Cour d'Assises in Paris - the region's highest criminal court - was conducted at what would appear breakneck speed to an Irish or British spectator.

A judge and two professional magistrates heard live evidence from just two Irish witnesses and relied primarily on read statements.

The court repeatedly returned to Ms Farrell's evidence despite her retraction of it and the fact she is considered an unreliable witness by Irish authorities.

Manchester-born Bailey had lived in west Cork since the mid-1990s after quitting his career as a journalist and turning his hand to poetry and making ends meet as a gardener.

Despite the scandal caused by the court case, Bailey still lives in the area - running a business selling pizza at local markets with his partner Ms Thomas.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, who was 14 when she was killed, has been at the forefront of the family's campaign for justice.

He was seated in court alongside her parents, brothers and various members of Ms Toscan du Plantier's extended family.

Speaking outside court he said: "The judgment is very clear - with all the elements of proof, Ian Bailey is a murderer and he killed my mother 22 years ago."

Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said his client is innocent "in this country, in spite of what has been done to him in the other country" and that he would continue to support him.

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