By Noel Baker
Update 9.10pm: On December 20, 2011, a complaint was received at GSOC from Ian Bailey, close to 15 years to the day since the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier.
Almost seven years later, the report by the Garda watchdog found issues of grave concern, but sums up the situation in one sentence: “There is no evidence to suggest that Ian Bailey was ‘framed’ for the murder or that evidence was falsified, forged, or fabricated by members of the Garda Síochána.”
The report outlines Mr Bailey’s arrests, on suspicion of a murder he has always denied, on February 10, 1997, and January 27, 1998. On both occasions, Mr Bailey was released without charge.
In his witness statements to GSOC, provided on March 22, 2012, Mr Bailey describes the atmosphere during his first arrest as “aggressive, accusatory, and hostile”, claiming that one detective garda repeatedly jabbed his finger into his side and arm, stating: “You did it, just admit it, everyone knows you did it, you better get your act together.”
He alleged a garda said: “Even if we don’t pin this on you, you’re finished in Ireland and you’ll be found dead in a ditch with a bullet in the back of your head.”
He made further allegations, including of being given a black and tan colour shirt at the garda station, of being told his partner, Jules Thomas, accepted his guilt, and that stories repeatedly appeared about him in the media as the “self-confessed prime suspect”.
Regarding the January 1998 arrest, Mr Bailey made allegations including being told that a small basement cell was waiting for him in Mountjoy.
On February 12, 1998, a file was submitted by gardaí to the DPP which decided on November 7, 2001, that a prosecution would not be sustainable.
It has been a long and winding road, pockmarked by complaints made by Mr Bailey in relation to the gardaí and its handling of the case, including that it was a corrupt investigation “in so far as it related to Mr Bailey” and that he had been unlawfully arrested.
The GSOC reports note that Mr Bailey was first formally nominated as a suspect for the murder of Ms du Plantier by gardaí on December 27, 1996.
“From the material reviewed by GSOC in this investigation, it appears that there was a reasonable belief held by gardaí at that time that Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas were responsible for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier,” says the report.
GSOC found no evidence sufficient to sustain either a criminal or disciplinary charge that Mr Bailey or Ms Thomas’s identities and personal details were transmitted at the time of their arrest in February 1997 by gardaí to the media.
As for Mr Bailey’s rearrest a year later, GSOC said “there is nothing to suggest this was unwarranted or that he was wrongly accused” given the context of the probe at that time.
It said the recollection by a former state solicitor did not support an allegation by Mr Bailey that unidentified senior garda officers had exhorted the state solicitor in West Cork “to bring improper influence as a result of his collegiate acquaintance with the then Minister for Justice to bring a prosecution against Mr Bailey in the late nineties”.
On December 20, 2011, a complaint was received at GSOC from Ian Bailey, close to 15 years to the day since the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier.
Latest: GSOC investigators said it is “a matter of grave concern” to them that a large number of original statements and exhibits relating to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation are missing, writes Sean O'Riordan.
However, in their report, they say this is likely due to a lack of administration and management and there’s no evidence of high-level corruption by gardaí.
The GSOC report states that in 2013 its investigators received documentation from the gardaí which outlined an extensive list of significant documents — including witness statements and 22 exhibits — that can no longer be located.
These include a blood-spattered gate taken from close to where Ms Du Plantier’s body was found; a French wine bottle discovered in a field next to the murder scene; and a black overcoat belonging to Ian Bailey.
A total of 139 original statements are missing from witnesses and include original memos of interviews with Jules Thomas and Marie Farrell.
In addition, witness statements were taken by the French police from a number of people — but only typed copies of witness statements were held by the Garda Síochána.
Meanwhile, GSOC investigators also discovered that other “miscellaneous items” are missing which include a diary belonging to Ian Bailey and tape recordings/transcripts of conversations between Ian Bailey and a foreign journalist.
The GSOC report also expressed concern that there are pages missing from the original garda ‘Jobs Books’ in relation to the murder investigation.
The A4-sized jobs books form a complete record of all activity undertaken in respect of a major or critical incident investigation and the rationale for the decisions made in relation to the direction of inquiries.
There were more references to Mr Bailey than any other person of interest in the jobs books in the first month of the murder investigation.
GSOC said their concern is further compounded by the fact that the specific pages missing are from the time when Mr Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect and as such they are potentially very significant.
Forensic scientist Brian Craythorne found several pages had been removed from the Jobs Book, possibly by cutting with scissors. He found that the front fly sheet, the pages numbered 1 to 7 and pages 10 and 11 were missing.
It was noted during the review of the jobs books by GSOC that there were a number of issues about the actual records which could not be explained.
These included the numbering such as Job number 277 jumping to 288 on the next page but there were no apparent missing pages. A number of pages were glued together with nothing in between them, meaning that the page numberings were also out of sequence.
GSOC said that, at this stage, their investigators had received no explanation from anyone within An Garda Síochána as to when the pages were removed, or how this was done, by whom and for what purpose.
GSOC investigators said it is “a matter of grave concern” to them that a large number of original statements and exhibits relating to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation are missing.
By Joe Leogue
A detective garda on the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case had a “questionable” relationship with a key witness in the investigation that “appears to GSOC to not have been appropriate at times”, the garda watchdog found.
However, the GSOC report into the complaints of Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas, and Marie Farrell found no evidence to support Ms Farrell’s allegation that she was put under pressure to provide statements that implicated Mr Bailey in the murder.
Ms Farrell alleges she was “coerced and cajoled” by gardaí into making false statements against Mr Bailey, and that she was asked to sign blank statements, after which a detective garda told her “that he would fill in the statements to say that Ian Bailey had threatened her”.
Retired gardaí denied this; told GSOC that Marie Farrell was “attention seeking and not credible”; and said she willingly co-operated with their investigation.
Ms Farrell told GSOC that a detective garda involved in the case “got very close to her family” in 1997 and that “there were rumours around Schull that she and this detective garda were having an affair, which she denied”.
The report notes that: “The relationship between the detective garda and Marie Farrell appears to GSOC to not have been appropriate at times.”
However, a review of telephone recordings “indicate that Marie Farrell had been under no pressure in her interactions with a detective garda [and indeed other members of the Garda Síochána] to provide accounts”, GSOC found. GSOC reported that “in fact, a phone call listened to in the course of the investigation could be seen as evidence of a relationship between Marie Farrell and an investigating garda that was not coercive”.
“The relationship between this detective garda and Marie Farrell would appear to have been questionable at times,” GSOC concluded. “It cannot be explained why Marie Farrell provided witness statements in the first instance before retracting her evidence in the garda investigation.”
By Juno McEnroe
Update 7pm: Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan TD says the report should be of concern to the Justice Minister as it shows gardaí thinking they are above the law. The findings are disturbing, says Mr O’Callaghan.
“While the latest GSOC report confirms that there is no evidence of the high level corruption as alleged by Mr Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas and Marie Farrell, it does outline yet another litany of missing evidence and lack of cooperation by some Gardaí and detectives into the GSOC investigation.
“It is quite disturbing and not acceptable in any investigation but particularly when it involves murder.
“GSOC is right to have concerns - as this act was a clear breach of trust and smacks of some members of the Gardaí thinking they are above the law. What makes this finding even more serious is that the Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation is still open so all evidence should have been protected.
“While there is no evidence of high level corruption the findings in this report can not be ignored by the Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice. All ranks of Gardaí should be required to fully cooperate with GSOC investigations,” concluded O’Callaghan.
Update 5.16pm: A watchdog has expressed “grave concern” after potentially significant police records on the murder of a French filmmaker in Ireland went missing.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was beaten to death on a freezing night outside her holiday home on a remote west Cork hillside on December 23 1996.
Ian Bailey, a former freelance journalist originally from the Manchester area, was arrested twice over the 39-year-old’s murder.
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) said: “It is GSOC’s view, formed after an extensive investigation, that while there was evidence of a lack of administration and management of aspects of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, there was no evidence of the high-level corruption by gardai alleged by the complainants Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas and Marie Farrell.
“A number of factors led to Ian Bailey being identified as a suspect at an early stage of the murder inquiry.
“His subsequent arrest and the arrest of his partner, Jules Thomas, therefore could not, as the complainants allege, have been construed as unlawful or illegal.”
Irish courts have repeatedly refused to extradite the former journalist to France for questioning over the murder.
Mr Bailey denies any involvement in the killing near Schull in west Cork.
The Commission’s investigation reviewed a “jobs book” compiled by the police on the murder investigation.
It said: “The missing pages from the jobs book when Ian Bailey was identified as a suspect are of grave concern to GSOC.”
These books form a complete record of all activity undertaken in respect of a major or critical incident (or investigation) along with the rationale for the decisions made.
“This concern is compounded further by the fact that the specific pages missing are from an area of the book when Ian Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect in the murder by gardai, and as such, they are potentially very significant.
“The significant amount of missing original garda documentation, witness statements, suspect files and physical exhibits in the garda murder investigation suggest to GSOC that there was a lack of administration and management of the incident room (even when viewed through the lens of the time) as opposed to clear evidence of malpractice or corruption.”
It added: “The lack of forensic material obtained from the scene, particularly given the precise nature of the murder and the state in which the body of Madame Toscan Du Plantier was discovered, is also of concern to GSOC.”
The report found no evidence a key witness, Marie Farrell, was coerced or intimidated into making false statements against Mr Bailey.
It said the review of telephone call recordings provided to GSOC during this investigation indicated that Ms Farrell had not been under pressure in her interactions with a detective garda to provide accounts, although the relationship appeared inappropriate at times.
The Commission was not able to substantiate other serious allegations that a witness had been provided with illegal drugs by gardai, though the telephone calls which have been reviewed noted that drugs were mentioned by the witness himself.