Ian Bailey has told a High Court jury that to his “eternal shame” he was involved in domestic violence in the past against his partner Jules Thomas.
“I wasn’t the only person in West Cork who engaged in domestic violence when drink was involved,” the 57-year-old Englishman said on the sixth day of his damages action against the State for alleged wrongful arrest during the investigation of the murder of the French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Mr Bailey, of Prairie Cottage, near Schull in West Cork, accepted Ms Thomas was hospitalised after a May 1996 incident and was hit with crutches in a 2001 incident. While he could not recall another incident in 1993, he was not disputing that happened, he added.
Yesterday, when asked by Luán Ó Braonáin, SC, for the State, about domestic violence towards Ms Thomas, he said, “to my eternal shame”, when in the past he used to drink spirits, he was involved in incidents of domestic violence. The reasons for that “have been long cured”, he said.
Mr Bailey said the May 1996 assault, which led to Ms Thomas being hospitalised, happened when the couple were driving home after a night out after both were drinking. He said that she grabbed him and he pushed her away. Asked was he saying she was to blame, he said: “That’s how it started.” His behaviour was “appalling,” he said.
When shown photos taken after that assault in which Ms Thomas had a closed black eye, a bandage on her head and some hair missing, Mr Bailey said those were “shameful and disgraceful of me” and “absolutely appalling”. After counsel said it seemed hair was pulled out, he said Ms Thomas had a hair condition where her hair comes out.
Counsel said it looked as if a substantial amount of hair was pulled out. Mr Bailey said he was not trying to “shy away”. He asked: “Have I not, in some way, paid a debt for this?”
He “knew this was going to happen”, it had also happened in his libel case and he would have raised the domestic violence matter himself but was advised against it, he said.
Mr Bailey said that whatever his shortcomings and failings, “and until the day I die I will be ashamed of that”, what was subsequently done to him, “to put me in the box and brand me, I don’t want to try and minimise anything but it pales on the scales.”
He agreed that he had assaulted Ms Thomas in 2001 and had pleaded guilty to that. Mr Ó Braonáin said Ms Thomas was hit on the face and body with a crutch.
That assault was not premeditated and occurred after he was asleep in the lounge and she told him to find somewhere else to sleep, Mr Bailey said. He had his leg in plaster at the time after an accident. It happened “on the spur of the moment” and was “an act of disgraceful irresponsibility”, he said.
When counsel said “disgraceful violence”, Mr Bailey said: “Disgraceful violence.”
He agreed it was “common knowledge” in his local community in West Cork he had been violent to Ms Thomas.
Unfortunately, domestic violence was “commonplace” and there were “many other people” in the locality that had incidents of it, he said.
“I wasn’t the only person in West Cork who engaged in domestic violence when drink was involved.”
Mr Ó Braonáin told Mr Bailey his history of violence was one reason he was a suspect in the Garda investigation into murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier
‘I’m 1,000% sure Sophie and I were not introduced’
Ian Bailey said he is “1,000%” certain he was not introduced to French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
He said he was aware that Alfie Lyons, whose home adjoined that of Ms Toscan du Plantier near Toormore, Schull, in West Cork, had said he believed he had introduced Mr Bailey to the French woman.
Mr Lyons had made a statement saying he believed he had introduced Mr Bailey to Ms Toscan du Plantier but could not say for certain, the jury heard. Mr Lyons told later court proceedings he was 90% sure he had introduced Mr Bailey to her.
Mr Bailey, who agreed he had done gardening work for Mr Lyons at one point, said he was “1,000% sure” Mr Lyons had not introduced him to the film-maker.
Under cross-examination yesterday, the 57-year-old, who is suing the State for damages over alleged wrongful arrest during the investigation into the death of Ms du Plantier, told the jury he believed he had not told the Sunday Tribune, when contributing articles to it concerning the murder, that he might be a suspect.
Mr Bailey, who denies any involvement in the killing, said he believed gardaí had a number of suspects after late December 1996, and those might include himself and his partner, Jules Thomas, but he was not certain, he said.
Gardaí had made enquiries of himself and Ms Thomas and he knew “large numbers of people in Schull were getting the same treatment.”
It was a “very strange time,” and at the same time he did not know the finger of suspicion was “being pointed at me”. With hindsight, he could see the finger pointing from December 27, 1996, but at that time it “just felt strange” and he did not know, he did not understand the machinations of Garda thinking, he said.
He agreed some newspaper articles he had contributed to appeared to suggest the finger of suspicion for the murder was being pointed at France. Asked about articles claiming Ms Du Plantier had different male companions at various stages when visiting Ireland, he said he had been told this by a neighbour, Alfie Lyons. While journalists do not usually reveal their sources, these were extraordinary circumstances, he said.
When it was suggested by State counsel, Luán Ó Braonáin that he had made inconsistent statements about his knowledge of the nationality of the victim, he said he was told on the phone by a journalist about 1.40pm on Monday, December 23, it was a foreign woman.
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