Bailey case: Witness denies any prejudice

A State witness yesterday denied a suggestion he was so convinced Ian Bailey had murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier he was “scratching around” for any evidence against him, when gardaí had “none”.

Bailey case: Witness denies any prejudice

Jim Fitzgerald, a retired detective garda, denied in the High Court he was prejudiced against Mr Bailey or “at the forefront” of efforts by gardaí to ensure a murder charge.

Tom Creed, for Mr Bailey, put it to Mr Fitzgerald he was convinced from a “prejudiced position” that Mr Bailey was guilty of the murder and tape recordings were full of his “unguarded remarks” about this “bollocks” Bailey.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was investigating a very serious murder, did not know Mr Bailey at the time of his first arrest, and it was wrong to suggest he was convinced of his guilt. Gardaí interviewed a man in France after Mr Fitzgerald nominated that man as a suspect after being told of an acrimonious relationship between that man and the deceased, he said.

Asked would it be “inconceivable” that gardaí might have got it “spectacularly wrong”, Mr Fitzgerald said there was a reasonable suspicion of Mr Bailey, several grounds for arresting him, and gardaí would have been negligent if they had not did so..

He agreed things have gone wrong in other cases and, asked about Frank McBrearty and gardaí in Donegal, said he had no involvement in that and it was “entirely unfair” for counsel to raise that case. Mr Bailey had not been charged, Mr Fitzgerald said.

He rejected a suggestion that Martin Graham, who had approached gardaí in February 1997 concerning Mr Bailey, had “played” gardaí “from the start”. The witness said Mr Graham told gardaí he came to them out of civic duty arising from his concern about things Mr Bailey had said but later became “greedy”. Mr Fitzgerald said he had lost confidence in Mr Graham by May 1997 when gardaí and Mr Graham were recording each other’s conversations.

The cross-examination of Mr Fitzgerald concluded yesterday on day 51 of the civil action against the Garda commissioner and State over the investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on the morning of December 23, 1996. The defendants deny all claims.

Yesterday, Mr Justice John Hedigan said he had discussed with the jury foreman the jury’s difficulties about the length of time the case was taking. While “highly sympathetic”, he was limited in what he could do, the judge said. To facilitate a juror, the case has been adjourned to Tuesday when a best estimate of how long more it will run will be given.

Yesterday, Garda Anthony Finn said he was attached to Goleen in 2004 and 2005 when he had dealings with Marie Farrell’s family. He stopped her son Michael, then aged 17, when driving in January 2004 and again in October and December 2004 and March 2005 concerning motor tax and insurance.

He met Michael and his parents on one occasion at East End, Schull. When Chris Farrell asked why he had stopped his son, Garda Finn advised it related to road traffic matters. Mr Farrell was “quite irate” and said he had better not stop him again on his own because he would not be able to “handle” him, the garda said.

He noted and forwarded the encounter to superiors. Michael Farrell later pleaded guilty to certain motor tax offences, was fined €500, and disqualified, he said. Those matters pre-dated Ms Farrell’s retraction of her statements for the du Plantier investigation in which he was not involved.

Earlier, Mr Fitzgerald denied it was “nonsense” to claim he gave Martin Graham a DUMA pouch of loose tobacco on May 22, 1997, when Mr Graham was travelling in a Garda car. He knew the conversation was being taped and agreed there were “no unguarded remarks” during it. “And there’s no swear words either.”

He also denied he was “scratching around for any evidence when there was none”.

Asked about Mr Bailey’s description as a “regrettable black joke” his remark he killed Ms Toscan du Plantier to further his journalistic career, Mr Fitzgerald said he understood the concept of black humour but, with such a serious murder “and the death that woman got”, he did not think anyone would engage in such humour.

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