State calls its first defence witness

The State has called its first witness for its defence of the High Court action for damages brought by journalist Ian Bailey over the conduct of the investigation into the late 1996 murder in West Cork of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

State calls its first defence witness

Retired Detective Garda Denis Harrington began evidence on the 36th day of the case yesterday, during which evidence has been heard from 21 witnesses called by Mr Bailey.

In defending the claim, the Garda commissioner and State deny all of Mr Bailey’s claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy to manufacture evidence.

Mr Harrington said he was present when Mr Bailey was arrested at his home near Schull on February 10, 1997, on suspicion of the murder of Ms du Plantier, whose body was found near Toomore, Schull, on December 23 1996..

While he would not say it was a “courteous” journey to Bandon Garda Station, it was “official” with “no undue unpleasantries”, he said. Mr Bailey knew he was suspected of murder and had told the gardaí he was “completely innocent”. There was no threat issued to Mr Bailey during the journey, Mr Harrington said.

On February 10, 1997, he said he, Det Garda John Culligan, and Sgt Liam Ryan went to Mr Bailey’s home and asked him to account for his movements at the tine of the murder, before telling him he was being arrested on suspicion of the murder and cautioning him.

Mr Bailey replied that he had nothing to do with the murder.

He took notes of an interview with Mr Bailey in Bandon Garda Station that day which was “not aggressive” and was conducted “in a professional manner”.

He later read over the notes to Mr Bailey who made an alteration before signing them.

Cross-examined by Ronan Munro, for Mr Bailey, Mr Harrington said he went to the murder scene on December 26, 1996, and the body was still there and the scene was preserved.

The body was located directly below Ms du Plantier’s own house and that of her neighbour, Alfie Lyons, who was free to come and go from his house. He had not taken notes about the scene in his notebook.

The body was lying in mature, heavy, briars and he did not take a sketch or photos of them. Mr Harrington agreed that, in hindsight, that would have been a good idea. He did not receive forensic training when training as a Garda in 1967, he added.

Mr Munro asked Mr Harrungton about suspect files and whether there was one on Mr Bailey.

After Mr Bailey was nominated as a suspect for the murder by a local garda in Schull, Mr Harrington said he and Det Garda Culligan, both normally stationed in Mayfield, Cork, were detailed to examine this.

He agreed his job was to collate information on Mr Bailey and he believed whoever was in charge of the incident room would have control of that.

He believed it was already on file that Mr Bailey had used violence against his partner. He presumed any material gathered would go on the suspect’s file.

Later during cross-examination, Mr Harrington said he never saw any suspect file in Mr Bailey’s case and doubted there was one.

The case continues.

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