‘Blank’ statement accusation denied

A former detective garda yesterday denied he told Marie Farrell gardaí knew Ian Bailey had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier and needed her to say Mr Bailey was the man she saw near Schull hours before the body was found.

Jim Fitzgerald also denied claims by Ms Farrell she was asked at Ballydehob Garda Station on February 14, 1997, to sign blank pages of a statement.

Ms Farrell, the witness said, had made a statement that evening in which she said she saw Mr Bailey on the night of December 22/23, 1996, and had signed that in the presence of gardaí.

The first reference he heard to an allegation that a “blank” statement was given to Ms Farrell was from Mr Bailey in 2012 on Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3, he added. He was also unaware for about 18 years some calls involving him were recorded in Bandon Garda Station in 1997.

Mr Fitzgeraldhas begun giving evidence in the civil action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and State over the conduct of the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose body was found near Toormore, Scull, on December 23, 1996.

The defendants deny all of the claims, including wrongful arrest and conspiracy.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was involved in the murder investigation from the day the body was found.

He was asked to help trace the identity of an anonymous female caller “Fiona”, who had given gardaí certain information.

After it was decided on January 28, 1997, Garda Kevin Kelleher would go and speak to Ms Farrell, Mr Fitzgerald and Det Garda Jim Slattery later went to Garda Kelleher’s house where they met Ms Farrell.

Ms Farrell told them she had made the anonymous phonecalls and had seen a man at the bridge whom she now knew to be Ian Bailey, he said. She also said she was out with a friend that night and was not supposed to be out, he added.

Asked had he said gardaí knew it was Ian Bailey who carried out the murder, they needed her to say it was him at the bridge, and she would not have to make any statement, Mr Fitzgerald said that was not correct. He had not gone to meet Ms Farrell with any “agenda”. Gardaí wanted to clear up she was Fiona and find out what she had seen, he said.

Ms Farrell said she did not want to make a statement due to personal difficulties, he said. He wrote a memo on February 7, 1997, based on the conversation with her and he and Det Slattery signed that.

Mr Fitzgerald said, after he and another garda spoke to a man in Longford, Ms Farrell acknowledged the man was not her companion on the night of December 22/23, 1996, but refused to name her companion, saying her husband was violent and she would be compromised.

Earlier, retired Garda Superintendent JP Twomey said he was directed by Det Supt Dermot Dwyer in 1997 to defer the execution of warrants issued against Ms Farrell and members of her family. When he was raised the non-execution as he was retiring in 1999, he was told to hold off on execution, he said. He disagreed there was a failure to execute and said there was a “deferral”. Tom Creed, for Mr Bailey, said some warrants were not executed until “years afterwards”. Mr Twomey said it was very common to seek reissue of unexecuted warrants.

The case continues.

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