Ian Bailey loses case against gardaí and the State

Ian Bailey loses case against gardaí and the State

Former journalist Ian Bailey has lost a long-running lawsuit against the Irish State and the Garda Commissioner over allegations that detectives tried to frame him for an unsolved murder.

The 58-year-old, who moved to Ireland from Cheltenham in the mid-90s, sued the authorities for their handling of the investigation into the death of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The 36-year-old was battered to death outside her holiday home near Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

Mr Bailey was arrested twice over the killing but never charged.

Judge John Hedigan said costs would be determined at a later date.

Mr Bailey showed little emotion as the verdicts were disclosed after little more than two hours of deliberation following 64 days of hearings.

The law graduate and former journalist had his arm around his artist partner Jules Thomas as he discussed the outcome with lawyers.

The jury was asked to answer two key questions to determine the outcome of the lawsuit.

One was whether three gardaí - Detective Jim Fitzgerald, Garda Kevin Kelleher and Detective Jim Slattery - conspired to implicate Mr Bailey in the murder of Ms du Plantier by coercing witness Marie Farrell using threats, inducements or intimidation to make a statement placing Mr Bailey at Kealfada Bridge, near where the murder took place.

The second is whether there was a conspiracy by detectives Mr Fitzgerald and Maurice Walsh to get false statements from Ms Farrell that Mr Bailey intimidated her.

The State denied all claims. On both questions the jury said the answer was "no".

Judge Hedigan paid tribute to Ms du Plantier after the verdicts were delivered.

"Throughout this case there has always been the shadow of the late Sophie Toscan du Plantier and her tragic and senseless death.

"It's a source of dismay and anguish in Ireland and France that her cruel killer has not been brought to justice."

The judge described Ms du Plantier as a beloved mother, wife and daughter.

"I do not want it thought that her life was forgotten here in this court," he said.

Judge Hedigan said he would send a transcript of evidence given by Schull shopkeeper Ms Farrell on Mr Bailey's behalf to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Bailey did not speak after the hearing.

His solicitor Frank Buttimer said: “He is obviously very disappointed with the outcome. He gave this case his very best effort.

“He thought, and does in fact still think, that he had sufficient evidence to sway the jury in his favour. However, he has a deep and abiding respect for the Irish legal system.

“He appreciates the fact that the jury gave this case the attention that it did give the case, that is to be acknowledged.

“The result is disappointing.

“We will have to consider the result, consider our options, and at this point in time I think it is appropriate, out of respect for the fact that the decision has just been handed down, that we should be allowed space and time to consider what might arise from hereon in.”

Mr Buttimer thanked the media and all those involved in the courts for giving Mr Bailey privacy throughout the protracted case.

“I think there is little else at this point in time because it is a situation whereby Mr Bailey will have to evaluate the outcome,” he said.

No one has been prosecuted for the murder of the film-maker, who was married to Daniel Toscan du Plantier, an influential figure at the heart of the French film industry and government in the 1990s.

The French authorities are continuing their investigations, despite failing to secure Mr Bailey’s extradition from Ireland on a European Arrest Warrant.

Mr Bailey claimed he was unable to attend his mother Brenda’s funeral in 2010 after she died aged 87 for fear of being arrested under a separate warrant in the UK.

The murder investigation remains open in Ireland.

In evidence during the lawsuit, Mr Bailey said he believes the killer was from France.

One of the major planks of his case was wrongful arrest after being taken in for questioning – in February 1997 and again in January 1998 – which Judge Hedigan ruled last week would not be put to the jury.

The claim was declared statute barred due to the passage of time since the arrests and the lawsuit.

Mr Bailey was forced to admit during the case that he had beaten Ms Thomas three times.

On one occasion in August 2001, the court heard he attacked her across the face, body and limbs with a crutch after Ms Thomas woke him from a nap on a sofa in their home, the Prairie Cottage in Liscaha, near Schull.

In another in May 1996, Mr Bailey pulled her hair out, left her with a black eye, in need of stitches inside her mouth and bruising to the face and head, hands and arms after a row broke out in Ms Thomas’s car as she drove them home from the pub in west Cork.

On the third incident, in 1993 in Cork city, Mr Bailey revealed he attacked Ms Thomas after waking from his sleep with a nosebleed and he lashed out.

Mr Bailey had told the jury in the opening days of the case last November that the domestic violence was his “eternal shame”.

The former reporter now faces a monumental legal bill.

The courtroom defeat is the second Mr Bailey has suffered after he lost libel actions against several newspapers over their reporting of the investigation into the murder.

Mr Bailey was a cannabis user and a heavy drinker when he moved to west Cork.

He was born in Manchester and moved to Gloucestershire when he was nine and embarked on a career as a freelance journalist in Cheltenham in the 1980s.

He walked away from the media business in 1991 after becoming disillusioned and claiming he wanted to get out of the rat race, moving to Ireland, settling briefly in Waterford to work scaring crows on a farm and then to west Cork and into a fish factory.

During the case, Mr Bailey was forced to deny admitting to the murder while drinking in a bar and separately to a 14-year-old he had given a lift to while drunk.

He was also said to have made an admission on a third occasion when he told a news editor in the now defunct Sunday Tribune newspaper while he was covering the story that he had killed Ms du Plantier.

As part of his case against the State, Mr Bailey claimed he was targeted in part because he was English.

He told the jury he had received a death threat from a garda when he was first arrested at the Prairie Cottage, which Ms Thomas owned.

He also said he felt suicidal after becoming the prime suspect in the killing, that he had not slept properly for up to six years and that along with Ms Thomas, who was originally from Wales, they became pariahs in the west Cork area.

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