Jules Thomas yesterday said gardaí told her Ian Bailey confessed to the murder of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier when he "never had".
“I didn’t believe it,” Ms Thomas told the High Court.
Ms Thomas, Mr Bailey’s long-term partner, said this happened when she and Mr Bailey were being separately questioned at Bandon Garda Station on February 12, 1997, in connection with the December 1996 murder.
The artist broke down in the witness box yesterday as she described her arrest.
She said she never accepted Mr Bailey was the murderer and never told gardaí she did not want to see him but rather said that, if he had committed the murder, she never wanted to see him again.
During her 12-hour arrest, gardaí were “aggressive”, “horrible”, “banging fists on the table”, “really intimidating”, and kept saying Mr Bailey had done it, Ms Thomas told the court.
They got “very angry with me” and kept saying “come on, tell the truth”, said Ms Thomas, adding: “Jim Fitzgerald was one of the worst. He just seemed incensed with me.”
Material had been omitted from, and added to, the Garda notes of what she said, she told the court. She signed statements but had not read them over and they were read to her, she said. While her solicitor advised her to sign nothing, she had nothing to hide, she said.
There was a 17-page handwritten statement but, when that was later produced, it was “only 11 pages so something had been cut out”, Ms Thomas told the court.
Gardaí also tried to get her to look at photos of the dead woman but she refused, she said.
“I did not want that image in my head,” said Ms Thomas. She was very sympathetic to the dead woman’s family, it was “a very, very awful thing to happen to anyone”.
She said her second arrest, in 2000, was traumatic and horrible, with gardaí insisting she tell the truth. When gardaí came to arrest her, she was in bed and had to dress in front of a female garda, who also went into the bathroom with her and “stood over me” while she went to the toilet.
Ms Thomas said the female garda later told her “how useless my past relationships were” and “made me feel just as low as you could go”. At the station in Bandon, gardaí were “very angry” that she had made complaint about the statements taken during her first arrest, she added.
Ms Thomas was giving evidence in the action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and the State. They deny his claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy, arising from the Garda investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on December 23, 1996.
In reply to Jim Duggan BL, for Mr Bailey, Ms Thomas said that, about a week after the February 1997 arrests, their home at The Prairie, Schull, was phoned about midnight. She answered it and a man, whom she believed to be Garda Detective Fitzgerald, told her to “get the fuck out, get the fuck out”, she said.
A similar message was given to Mr Bailey when the phone rang a second time shortly afterwards, she said.
Mr Bailey complained about the phone call to Harcourt et Garda Station in Dublin, she said. She and Mr Bailey also complained to the minister for justice about their arrests.
Under cross-examination by Paul O’Higgins SC, for the State, Ms Thomas said she made some errors when filling in a Garda questionnaire concerning her movements on December 22 and 23, 1996, because she got her days mixed up, but she corrected the errors in a second questionnaire.
She said she had heard Mr Bailey tell journalist Helen Callanan over the phone “Yeah, I committed the murder” but that was “not meant to be taken seriously at all”, she said. Statements suggesting Mr Bailey had a knowledge of matters that was hard to account for were made by persons who had “good reason to lie”, she added.
Ms Thomas said did not trust the gardaí dealing with the investigation. When asked if it reasonable for gardaí to suspect a man with a history of violence towards women, she said there had been a handful of incidents locally of “alcoholic violence towards wives” but that was “not considered on the same level as murder”.
“Finding a motive would be much more a line to go down,” she said.
When counsel suggested that her arrest arose because gardaí believed she was covering up for Mr Bailey, because they believed she herself had anything to do with the murder, she said that was not made clear to her. “I told them I would never cover a murderer,” she said.
The cross-examination continues today.
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