Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s son and brother said for them and their extended family, it’s just another year without justice for her, but hopefully another year closer to truth.
The body of the Paris-based French film producer was found in the early hours of December 23, 1996, lying at the bottom of the laneway which leads to her isolated holiday home in Toormore, near Schull on the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork.
She had been battered to death. No-one has ever been charged with her murder.
Her parents, Georges and Marguerite, made the anniversary pilgrimage to West Cork almost every year, to remember their daughter, and to continue their relentless campaign for justice.
But this year, they were just too frail to travel to attend the commemorative Mass, and the torch of commemoration in West Cork has truly been passed to a new generation.
Sophie’s son, Pierre Louis Baudey Vignaud, his uncle, her brother, Bertrand Bouniol, and Bertrand’s son, Baptiste, flew in from Paris to Cork Airport on Saturday and spent the night at the house in Toormore, before attending midday Mass in Goleen’s Our Lady, Star of the Sea and St Patrick Church.
They both spoke movingly from the altar after Mass, and thanked the people of Goleen, West Cork, and Ireland, for their continued warm welcome and support.
Mr Bouniol said while his and Sophie’s parents were too frail to travel to Ireland this year, their spirt and energy was in the church with them.
Speaking outside afterwards, he said: “Their spirit, energy is here. Every year they came, and now it’s our turn, a new generation. We are still convinced that it’s important to be here, to pray for Sophie, to pray for justice, to replace our parents.
“It doesn’t really matter whether it’s the 20th anniversary, or the 19th, or the 21st.
“It’s another year without justice and we will continue our campaign for the truth.”
Pierre Louis thanked Mass goers for welcoming him and his family to the region, but said it was yet another anniversary without justice for his mother.
“Every year we will mark this anniversary until we know the truth, we will be here,” he vowed.
“It’s very important for us, for our family, but also very important for Ireland to feel safe again, to feel clean.”
Bertrand said the people who shook their hands in the aisle after Mass told him they too were praying for his mother, for his parents, and for justice. “They are waiting for justice too, waiting for this to become a quiet place again,” he said.
“There is still a murderer free somewhere, so it is important not just for my sister, for my family, but for everyone that the murderer who is free now, be punished.”
Pierre Louis said: “We are fighting to know the truth, we must know, and we must find it, and we must feel safe again.”
They said they noted the decision last week by the garda watchdog, Gárda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) not to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions following its five-year investigation into the garda handling of the murder inquiry.
The GSOC probe was launched on foot of a complaint lodged in 2009 by Ian Bailey, who was arrested twice as part of the garda investigation, but never charged.
However, following an extensive probe which got under way in 2012, it emerged last week that GSOC investigators found no evidence to meet the threshold of criminal behaviour required by the DPP to warrant a prosecution.
It is understood that GSOC may make certain recommendations linked to garda procedures to the Garda Commissioner.
It is also expected that it will furnish copies of its lengthy report to a number of parties, including Ian Bailey, the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister before publishing it either later this month, or early next month.
Mr Bailey, who was twice arrested as part of a garda investigation into Sophie’s murder, but never charged, has always denied involvement in her death.
Following their own investigation into the murder, the French authorities charged Mr Bailey last August with involuntary manslaughter and have sought his extradition — for the second time —to stand trial in Paris.
The Irish Supreme Court upheld Mr Bailey’s appeal against the first extradition request and rejected it four to one on March 1, 2012.
But because French law allows suspects to be sent forward for trial in absentia, the French investigation continued, resulting in last August’s decision to press charges.
The extradition request must first be considered by the Irish Department of Justice, and if deemed valid, then be forwarded to the High Court for review and an ex-parte decision on whether to grant the warrant or not.
Given the Irish Supreme Court’s decision in 2012, it is expected that this request will also be rejected.
It is expected that the Court d’Assize in Paris, composed of three judges, will go on to hold a trial in absentia.
Sophie’s son and brother said despite the possible challenges to the latest French process, they remain confident that it will help them get justice soon.
Du Plantier’s son will seek justice ‘until his dying breath’
The son of murdered French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier has vowed to continue his family’s quest for justice until his dying breath.
Pierre-Louis Baudey- Vignaud, 35, was speaking from the altar of Our Lady, Star of the Sea and St Patrick church in Goleen, on the Mizen Peninsula, West Cork.
He, his uncle, Sophie’s brother, Bertrand Bouniol, and his son, Baptiste, flew in from Paris on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of her murder, and joined parishioners at Mass in Goleen yesterday to pray for her.
They said her parents, Marguerite and Georges, were too frail to travel but that their spirt and energy was in the church with them.
“I promise you that we will fight for justice until our last breath and this country will be a peaceful land again,” Mr Baudey-Vignaud said.
Mr Bouniol recalled how he, his parents, and aunt, spent Christmas Day 1996 identifying his sister’s body in Cork University Hospital.
No one has ever been charged with her murder.
“Nineteen years ago I was in this church with you, my parents, my aunt, to participate in Mass for my sister and during all those years, my parents came every year, to Goleen, to this church to pray with you for my sister. Now, they are too old, they are too sick, they are too tired to come,” he said.
Mr Baudey Vignaud told the congregation that it was yet another year without justice for him and his family.
“My mother loved this country so much. She loved you, Irish women, she loved you, Irish men. She was so proud coming to your country. I love your country and I want my children to love your country too.”
He said he knows some people are still “frightened” as the person who killed his mother is still out there.