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Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder: France to charge Ian Bailey

By Ralph Riegel

The French authorities are set to make a fresh bid to extradite British journalist Ian Bailey for questioning over the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39).

Paris police are reported by the French media to have issued a fresh arrest warrant for the Manchester-born journalist who has been based in west Cork for the past 25 years.

The warrant is understood to have been issued following an eight year probe conducted by the French police into the death of the mother of one.

The French authorities will be going to a court shortly to lodge documentation which will in effect mean that Bailey has been charged in relating to the matter.

Sophie was found battered to death on an isolated lane way to her holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork on December 23 1996.

She had been beaten to death as she apparently attempted to flee from an intruder at her home.

Ms du Plantier had been spending a brief holiday in Ireland at her holiday home before planning to fly back to France to spend Christmas with her family.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice by Gardai in connection with the matter in 1997 and 1998.

He was released without charge on both occasions.

He has since repeatedly claimed that attempts were made to "stitch him up" for the crime.

Mr Bailey has also vehemently protested his innocence.

When no-one was every charged with the killing in Ireland, the French authorities - under pressure from Sophie's family and friends - launched their own probe.

This was under Paris-based Magistrate Patrick Gachon and enjoyed the co-operation of the Irish authorities.

This included allowing elite French police units access to the original murder file and the ability to re-interview all the original witnesses.

French police units had made multiple trips to Ireland over the past five years.

Six years ago, the French issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) seeking the extradition of Mr Bailey to France for questioning.

Mr Bailey vigorously opposed the warrant and, in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2012, the Irish courts refused to extradite Mr Bailey.

Since then, Mr Bailey sued the Irish State for wrongful arrest.

He lost that action though it is currently under appeal to the Supreme Court.

The French probe under Magistrate Gachon concluded earlier this year and it was widely expected that it would recommend a Paris-based trial.

Mr Bailey has repeatedly predicted that the French would attempt to try him in absentia.

Under France's Napoleonic law based system such trials in absentia are perfectly permissible and have taken place before.

Mr Bailey and his legal team were unavailable for comment today.

It is understood that Mr Bailey will again vigorously contest any French attempt to extradite him.

The Manchester native has complained that his life has been rendered "a nightmare" by the ongoing French legal process.

Because of the French extradition stance, he was unable to attend a family funeral in the UK two years ago amid fears the Paris police might demand that the UK police exercise the EAW.

Irish Independent

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