‘If I didn’t arrest Bailey I’d be failing people of West Cork’

Garda denies he didn’t have ‘blind bit of interest’ in evidence to corroborate innocence

‘If I didn’t arrest Bailey I’d be failing people of West Cork’

A detective garda who arrested Ian Bailey on suspicion of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier has rejected a suggestion he did not have “a blind bit of interest” in anything that might corroborate Mr Bailey’s innocence.

John Paul Culligan, now retired, said he had five reasons for arresting Mr Bailey, including that Mr Bailey had told people he committed the murder.

“If I did not arrest Ian Bailey, I would have been failing Sophie Toscan du Plantier, I would have been failing myself, I would have been failing the people of West Cork.”

He denied a suggestion by Ronan Munro, for Mr Bailey, he was going to arrest Mr Bailey “one way or the other”, irrespective of what witnesses said. He was “a professional policeman” and denied he arrested Mr Bailey “with extreme prejudice”.

He agreed, before Mr Bailey’s arrest, no statement taken from Saffron Thomas related to Mr Bailey’s claim she witnessed him cutting down a Christmas tree — his explanation for having scratches on his hands and arms. That was “an oversight”, Mr Culligan said. He was suspicious of Mr Bailey’s explanation for the scratches, he said.

Mr Culligan testified yesterday in the civil action for damages by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State who deny his claims — including wrongful arrest and conspiracy — over the conduct of the murder investigation.

Mr Culligan told Paul O’Higgins SC, for the State, he was part of the team investigating the murder of Ms du Plantier whose body was found near her home at Toormore, Schull, on December 23, 1996. Statements or memos made would be typed up and handed into the incident room, he said.

He spoke with Mr Bailey a number of times from December 31, 1996 before going with two other gardai to arrest Mr Bailey at his home at The Prairie, Schull,on February 10, 1997.

When the Garda patrol car was leaving for Bandon Garda station, Mr Bailey’s partner Jules Thomas put her hand in the car window and told Mr Bailey: “Remember, they have nothing on you, nothing on you, I love you and I’ll swear that in court,” Mr Culligan said.

He previously took notes of Mr Bailey’s account of his movements around the time of the murder and took another note from Mr Bailey that morning which he read over to Mr Bailey who indicated he was unhappy with a reference to a “long black coat that I am now wearing”, amended the note and signed it.

He told Mr Bailey he was arresting him for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on December 22/23, 1996. His reasons for arresting Mr Bailey were, one: Mr Bailey had had several opportunities to account for his movements and they were “not correct”; two: he had scratches on both arms; three: gardai were told he had been seen at Kealfadda Bridge (near Schull) at 3am; four: he was very violent towards his partner Jules Thomas and; five: Mr Bailey had told people he committed the murder.

Mr Bailey had not just said he did it, he had also said how he did it, Mr Culligan said. Mr Bailey told a local youth, Malachy Reid, he went up there one morning with a rock and beat her brains out, he said.

Mr Culligan said he cautioned Mr Bailey who said words to the effect: “You can’t be serious, you can’t do this to me, I’m shocked.”

During the car journey to Bandon, Mr Bailey denied any involvement in the murder and said he was at the murder scene later on December 23, 1996 with other journalists, Mr Culligan said. Mr Bailey said he got a phone call about 2.30am that day saying a French lady had been murdered and he went to Alfie Lyons’ house in the Toormore area because he had a “hunch” it was there.

Nothing untoward happened in his interactions with Mr Bailey, he said.

In cross-examination, Mr Culligan denied he jabbed Mr Bailey in the stomach during the car journey or told him he had committed the murder, everyone knew that and he should just say so. He denied he told Mr Bailey to get his act together and he was a violent man and denied it was against normal police practice to handcuff him.

The case continues today.

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