Journalist Ian Bailey has denied before the High Court he asked another man whether he knew about "the murder in Schull" before telling him, with a smirk: "That was me".
Mr Bailey was being asked about statements to gardaí made by James McKenna stating he was in “absolutely no doubt” the man whom he spoke to was “admitting to murder”.
Mr McKenna, from the North, said in statements he and his wife had a conversation with Mr Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas in the Galley Inn pub in Schull on the night of April 8, 1997.
During that conversation, Mr Bailey had asked the man had he heard about a murder in Schull.
Mr McKenna reportedly told Mr Bailey he had heard about the murder on the news and Mr Bailey looked at him “in the eye” and, in a “deliberate voice”, said: “That was me.” Mr Bailey was “smirking”.
In his statements, Mr McKenna said he was “numbed with shocked”, later contacted the gardaí and made statements.
The statements were read during the continuing cross-examination of Mr Bailey in his action against the Garda commissioner and the State. They deny his claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy arising from the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French film-maker whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23, 1996. Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in her murder.
Yesterday, Luán Ó Braonáin, counsel for the State, put to Mr Bailey that Mr McKenna’s statements were significant and among the reasons grounding Mr Bailey’s second arrest by gardaí on January 27, 1998.
Mr Bailey agreed he and Ms Thomas had a conversation with Mr McKenna and his wife in the Galley Inn, but said he had always denied making the comments attributed to him by Mr McKenna.
When counsel put to Mr Bailey gardaí were entitled to also take into consideration he had told journalist Helen Callanan and a local boy, Malachy Reid, he had killed Ms Toscan du Plantier, Mr Bailey said those were alleged informal admissions. What he said to Ms Callanan was “a black joke” and what he had told Mr Reid was that other people were saying he had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he said.
Mr Bailey said the statements had to be considered in the context of other matters he was not allowed refer to and he was in a “David and Goliath” situation.
Mr Justice John Hedigan told the jury Mr Bailey was referring to an assessment of evidence made by the DPP’s office and to material grounding the French application for the extradition of Mr Bailey. The court previously decided, to “balance” the sides, those materials should not be admitted into evidence and there was no “dark secret lurking” in the background, he said.
Mr Bailey said he was aware Marie Farrell had given media interviews alleging he had intimidated and threatened her. After she had alleged he intimidated her on a date when he was in his solicitor’s office in Cork, his solicitor Frank Buttimer wrote to her in March 2004 asking her to retract her claims and undertake not to repeat them or legal proceedings would be taken.
Counsel said solicitor Ernest Cantillon replied on behalf of Ms Farrell on April 19, 2004, stating she could not respond to allegations about unspecified articles and programmes and alleging Mr Bailey had engaged in threatening and abusive behaviour towards Ms Farrell. The letter refused any retraction or undertaking and said a counter claim would be lodged if Mr Bailey’s “abusive” behaviour persists.
When counsel asked about contacts between Mr Bailey and Ms Farrell after they met in her ice cream parlour in Schull on June 28, 1997, Mr Bailey said he met her in his solicitor’s office and saw her around Schull after she “came over to the good” in April 2005. He believed there were allegations his partner, Jules Thomas, had gone in and said “change your statement” but could be wrong.
He believed, sometime after his second arrest in January 1998, Ms Farrell phoned his home and had spoken to Ms Thomas and asked to speak to him but he refused. “I didn’t want anything to do with her.”
Ms Farrell later gave evidence adverse to him in his libel proceedings against various media and he considered those proceedings were “hijacked” by the gardaí, he said.
The jury heard Mr Buttimer had written to Ms Farrell on September 29, 2005, stating Mr Bailey was deeply grateful for her courage in adopting the position she had and which Mr Buttimer could now state to gardaí.
Asked about legal applications by the French authorities for documents relating to the murder investigation and extradition proceedings, he said he became aware from 2007 of those but was unaware exactly what documents were provided or that statements by Ms Farrell retracting previous statements concerning him were provided.
‘Something strange’ about the words ‘back in print again, hip, hip, hurray’
By Ann O’Loughlin
The writings of Ian Bailey were examined in detail in the High Court yesterday.
Asked whether he had written the words “back in print again, hip, hip hurray” on a piece of paper dated Jun 30, 1997, Mr Bailey, who is suing the State for alleged wrongful arrest during the investigation into the death of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork, said several times he wasn’t sure, there was “something strange” about it.
Luán Ó Braonáin, counsel for the State, carried out a detailed comparison of various writings of Mr Bailey.
Those included poems about seeing a rat, a shorthand note of the lyrics of the Eagles’ song, Desperado, and various reflections, including the words “broken pieces of former self” which Mr Bailey said was a reference to how he felt after his first arrest.
Mr Bailey agreed there were similarities between the letters in his writings and the “back in print...” text, and accepted it was “probably” his writing but added there was “something strange” about it.
He rejected Mr Ó Braonáin’s suggestion that “back in print...” related to a story being written for the Sunday Independent about his situation, published in late July 1997, and showed “how much you were enjoying the attention”.
Mr Bailey said he was led to believe the article would be sympathetic, but that was “a false illusion”.
Counsel also suggested various other writings of Mr Bailey suggested his life before the murder was unhappy and not full of “joie de vivre” and he had given an impression of a continuum of journalism work when that was not the case.
Mr Bailey said that he had been unsuccessful trying to get some jobs, and his jobs included work on a fish farm and landscape gardening.
Life is not always happy but what happened to him was “everything was turned upside down”.
He agreed his writings included statements “life’s a bummer when you’re unknown and unpublished” and there was “nothing I have touched in my life I haven’t ruined or hasn’t fallen apart”.
“However unhappy I might have been before has no bearing on the misery I’ve suffered directly as a result of this false accusation,” he said.
The case continues today.
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