Ted Murphy, a retired detective chief superintendent, said he knew by May 1997, Ms Farrell had lied about the identity of the male companion with her, when they allegedly drove past another man walking on the road near Schull on the night of December 22/23, 1996, hours before the Frenchwoman’s body was found.
He agreed that he had in January 1998, told a district court judge Ms Farrell was a “key witness” in the investigation, but also accepted an official in the DPP’s office had described Ms Farrell as not reliable.
Gardaí recognised Ms Farrell was in a compromised position on December 22/23 and regarded her as an important witness whose sighting of the man on the road might still be corroborated, he said.
He would not approve of, and was not aware of, Ms Farrell being assured her sighting would not have to be corroborated by her companion; was unaware of any conditions attached to Ms Farrell making a statement, and would not approve of a corroborating witness being given an assumed name.
There was other evidence and other witnesses in the investigation apart from Ms Farrell, he added.
Mr Murphy was being cross-examined in the continuing action by Ian Bailey against the Garda commissioner and the State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found near her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23, 1996. The defendants deny all Mr Bailey’s claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.
Yesterday, Mr Murphy told Tom Creed, counsel for Mr Bailey, he was satisfied on April 30, 1997, a man named by Ms Farrell as her companion on the night of December 22/23 was “nowhere near” West Cork on the occasion. He and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald met Ms Farrell on three occasions from May 1997 to discuss what she had said.
The concern was to get corroboration of her account of seeing a man on the road near Schull by interviewing her companion.
They told her they understood the position she was in, as she had said she was compromised because she was out with another man and she had a violent husband.
He had decided, after three meetings with Ms Farrell, there was no point in pursuing the matter. He understood Ms Farrell had, to date, named three different men as her companion, two of whom were dead.
Asked had gardaí re-evaluated Ms Farrell’s evidence after learning she lied, he said they “left the door open” to see if she could resolve her problems. Ms Farrell had come forward voluntarily on December 25, 1996, with information she believed would assist the investigation, he said. And while she was less valuable than before due to having told lies, she was always an important witness and it was always possible she would give the true identity of her companion.
He said he was not put under pressure from assistant commissioner Martin McQuinn to get Mr Bailey “locked up”.
He also said he advised Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald to record conversations to ensure he was protected after the detective expressed concerns about dealings with a witness, Martin Graham. He himself had no direct dealings with Mr Graham.
Gardaí eliminated a French male friend of Ms du Plantier, described in court as “prone to violent outbursts”, as a “person of interest” after the French police checked out his alibi, he said.
Ann Cahill, who in 1996 was a Cork-based journalist, said she believed she was outside Bandon Garda Station following Mr Bailey’s arrest. She did not know how she found out about that, it could have been from the gardaí. Gardaí had not been very forthcoming to her with information concerning the investigation, she added.
The case continues.