Supt Liam Horgan of Bantry Garda Station and Det Gda Jim Fitzgerald of Bandon Garda Station travel to Paris this week to meet the French inquiry team. They are to be quizzed on the Garda investigation into the brutal murder.
Lawyer Alain Spilliaert, a member of l’Association pour la vérité sur l’assassinat de Sophie Toscan du Plantier (The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier), said that it was another important step in the family’s efforts to have their daughter’s killer brought to justice.
The 39-year-old wife of film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier was found battered to death near her holiday home in Toormore, Co Cork, on December 23, 1996. Despite one of the biggest investigations in the history of the State, no one has been formally charged with her murder.
Last December, on the order of French Judge Patrick Gachon, her remains, buried at Mauvezin in south-west France, were exhumed in order to allow new DNA and forensic tests to take place. But, it failed to reveal any new clues.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern received the unprecedented request from French authorities to allow the two gardaí to travel to Paris to give evidence in the French investigation into the murder.
The request came after officials from the French magistrates’ team travelled to West Cork last June to prepare for the most intensive phase of their judicial inquiry. Judge Gachon and a second magistrate, Judge Nathalie Dutartre, spent three days carrying out inquiries. They met a number of gardaí involved in the original investigation and they also visited the murder scene.
They are now preparing to take evidence at formal hearings in Paris and are understood to have drawn up a list of up to 30 Garda and civilian witnesses.
This new investigation follows years of campaigning by the victim’s family and by the 200-member campaign formed last year with Ms du Plantier’s uncle at its head. Her parents have visited Ireland every year since her death and are campaigning for harmonisation of victims’ rights across the EU.
The group has been in contact with both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Irish government, and only this year gained access to the original pathologist’s report.
The Garda file on the investigation into the murder was handed over to Judge Gachon after the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that he would not be bringing a prosecution in the case on the basis of the evidence available to him.
Now, the Paris magistrates are preparing for the interview phase of their probe – which French legal sources say is the crucial element of the new investigation. Aside from investigating Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder, it’s understood that Judge Gachon and his team are also looking at parts of the Garda file to see whether there is a case for bringing an obstructing the course of justice prosecution.
This action could be brought against anyone who may have impeded the original investigation of the crime.