Belfast Telegraph

Man 'shouldn't have been a suspect'

A former journalist who claims he was framed for the unsolved murder of a French film-maker in Ireland has said he should not have been made a suspect on concocted or manufactured evidence.

Ian Bailey, an English reporter who moved to west Cork more than 23 years ago, is suing the Irish state after being arrested twice 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.

The High Court in Dublin - where the 57-year-old is suing the Irish state for wrongful arrest - heard he thought he had been identified as a suspect when he saw two officers watching him in Brosnan's newsagents in Schull, west Cork, in the days after the killing.

Under cross-examination by senior counsel for the state Luan O Braonain, Mr Bailey claimed he had been made a murder suspect on "false grounds" and he disagreed with reasons why a person may be detained by police.

"Having been put in the frame - I would say an attempt to be falsely framed for this - I would disagree with you," he told the court.

Mr Bailey told the jury he believed he was identified as a suspect by two Garda officers who watched him in the shop.

He told the court: "When I look back with retrospect, clearly you can tell (the late Garda Bart) O'Leary - who I think described himself as Cracker - thought he'd identified the killer."

Mr Bailey said a suspect should only be arrested if evidence "has not been concocted or manufactured".

In a second day of cross-examination Mr Bailey was forced to defend his career in journalism, his attempt to revive it in west Cork after several years out of the business and his decision to use the name Eoin O Baille.

"Someone suggested that I should Gaelicise my English name. It was a pen name. I think you'll find it's not uncommon to take a pen name," Mr Bailey said.

"I was not trying to portray myself as something that I was not."

Mr Bailey dropped the O Baille but kept using Eoin while trying to kickstart his career in the mid-90s.

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

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

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

During questioning on him being classed as a suspect, Mr Bailey also raised a report in a French magazine which claimed detectives knew the killer.

"I remember an article that appeared in Paris Match when a senior police officer said we knew who it was from day one," he told the court.

Mr Bailey was asked over two hours to explain articles which would demonstrate his "serious career in journalism".

At one point the former reporter was forced to defend his assertion that he was a correspondent rather than a freelance reporter or "stringer" while he was based in Cheltenham in the 1980s.

When asked why he only provided a small selection of cuttings of his work, Mr Bailey said: "I'm not making it up."

Later Mr Bailey added: "I've come to this court to prosecute Garda corruption and I've brought these as a sample."

Some of the articles discussed related to British intelligence organisation GCHQ in Cheltenham, another involved the print workers' protests at Wapping in 1987, local stories with a royal link and one about a giant pike being caught.

The court heard Mr Bailey claimed in evidence last week that his inspiration for a career in journalism was reading All The President's Men on the Watergate scandal when he was 14.

Mr O Braonain told him that could not have happened as it was only published in 1974, when he was 17.

Mr Bailey replied: "I may have been mistaken about that. I would say that in my teens I read the book. I'm not sure. I said 14 - it was my mistake."

The jury was told Mr Bailey left England in 1991 to get away from the "rat race".

He first went to Arklow, then a farm in Waterford and then a fish factory in Schull, west Cork, and after several long periods on the dole and work on local community projects he attempted to resurrect his journalism career in rural west Cork.

Mr Bailey denied he was in tens of thousands of pounds of debt after a divorce from his first wife was finalised in 1988.

Mr Bailey is to continue being cross-examined in a civil action which is expected to last another five weeks.


From Belfast Telegraph