A witness has told the Ian Bailey murder trial in Paris that her son’s life became very stressful after Mr Bailey told him that he had killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Amanda Reid is one of only two witnesses who have travelled from Ireland to the trial in France. She told the court that she was attending the trial to speak for her son Malachi who found everything to do with the incident too difficult to address.
Giving evidence through an interpreter, she said that, on February 4, 1997, Mr Bailey stopped to give her 14- year-old son a lift outside Schull in West Cork. During the drive home, Malachi Reid alleges Mr Bailey said: “I went up there and bashed her brains out.”
Ms Toscan du Plantier’s body was found on the morning of December 23, 1996. Ms Reid said her son came home and went to bed pretty soon afterwards on the evening he got the lift from Mr Bailey. The following day a garda visited the school and that evening Malachi Reid appeared very agitated and told his mother what Mr Bailey had said in the car.
Ms Reid says she thought it was very serious and she rang the guards. She and her son gave statements on the matter soon after. Malachi Reid gave evidence against Mr Bailey at a 2003 libel trial in Cork. His mother said that the trial had had a “massive impact” on Malachi.
“The impact on our lives was huge,” she said.
We felt as though we were living with a very dangerous person.
Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in the murder and he is not attending the trial in Paris. His solicitor, Frank Buttimer, has described the hearing as a “show trial”. The second witness to travel to Paris from West Cork also gave evidence of an alleged admission by Mr Bailey.
Bill Fuller, who lives in Schull, was working as a gardener in early 1997 when he called up to Mr Bailey’s home, he told the court. During their meeting, Mr Bailey began speaking in the second person, according to Mr Fuller’s evidence. Mr Fuller told the court Mr Bailey said: “You saw her in the shop. You saw her tight arse. You fancied her, you went up there to try and see what you could get.
“You tried to calm her but she ran away. She was scared. She ran away screaming so you chased her to calm her dow n. You stove something into the back of her head and you realised you went too far and you had to finish her off.”
Mr Fuller told the court that he had replied to Mr Bailey that “that was the sort of thing you would do”. Mr Bailey then said to him: “That’s how I got to meet Jules. I saw her tight arse but she let me in.”
A DPP analysis of a number of alleged admissions to the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier by Mr Bailey ascribed most of them to “sarcasm”. The DPP examined the Garda file on Mr Bailey at least four times and on each occasion decided the evidence did not warrant prosecution.
Mr Fuller said Mr Bailey had told him that he and his partner, Jules Thomas, had twice had Ms Toscan du Plantier around to their home for dinner and that the Frenchwoman had had a violent lover with whom she had split up.
The trial also heard that requests to attend were sent to 15 witnesses in Ireland but problems arose with the short notice in some instances and difficulties in sending the requests via the postal service.
The trial is expected to conclude on Friday with a verdict, and if the verdict is guilty, a lengthy prison sentence. However, Mr Bailey is not in France and would be subject to extradition efforts by French authorities.
Prosecutor’s lack of urgency staggering
Repressed memory syndrome raised its head at the Ian Bailey murder trial in Paris yesterday. Nineteen years after Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered, a friend of hers recalled a significant conversation they had days before her death.
Agnes Thomas had been very close to Ms Toscan du Plantier. At one point they had worked together in Paris. She had accompanied her friend on occasion to the Du Plantier holiday home in West Cork. They had spoken by phone around 9pm on December 22, 1996, hours before Ms Toscan du Plantier was battered to death in a savage attack near her holiday home.
But it was a conversation the pair had some days prior to that which Ms Thomas had apparently involuntarily repressed for 19 years. In 2015, she was involved with the association set up to find out the truth about Sophie’s death. At one point she saw film footage about Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death, there had been a mention of poetry. That triggered something for Ms Thomas.
She remembered that a week before Sophie went to West Cork for the last time on December 20, 1996, the pair had spoken by phone and Sophie mentioned an encounter she’d had. “A week or so before the crime she had mentioned that there was a man who wanted to meet her. She didn’t really want to meet him, didn’t know what to do,” Ms Thomas told the presiding judge and two magistrates who will decide on the guilt or otherwise of Mr Bailey.
Ms Thomas said Sophie related that the man was “a weird guy who wrote poetry”. Ms Thomas told her friend to be careful about meeting such a man.
Questioning the witness, Judge Frédérique Aline put it to her that she cannot be sure this man was Ian Bailey. “No, I cannot but if she did meet him it was for work,” Ms Thomas replied. The judge, rather than the witness, introduced Mr Bailey’s name in the exchange. The judge said to Ms Thomas that when she was asked about the killing in 2008 — by French investigators — she had recalled the conversation on December 22 but said nothing about this earlier, apparently significant, conversation.
“She (Sophie) didn’t mention anything about this man on the 22nd, that’s why I forgot about it, it was a week or so before that,” she replied.
Later, when asked by the lawyer for the Du Plantier family about this failure to recall, Ms Thomas expanded.
“The brain is a complex thing. I was working with the association. I had lost my best friend, it was so shocking, something blocked in me. It took years. It came back to me when the footage mentioned something about poetry. She told me about the man she found weird and I did advise her to be careful and not meet him,” she said.
Her revelation is one of, if not the only, new strands of evidence produced in the trial. It will be entirely up to the three-person court to decide how much weight can be attached to it.
So much for the new evidence. The vast bulk of the evidence gathered in the days, weeks, and months after the killing came from people in West Cork. The court heard yesterday that requests were sent out to 15 people in Ireland asking to attend the court as a witness.
Further to this, Sophie’s son Pierre-Louis travelled to Goleen, West Cork, a week before the trial began to make an appeal to those witnesses to attend. The response has been pretty poor. Two witnesses, Amanda Reid and Bill Fuller, have travelled to attend the trial.
Yesterday, a response to one request to attend was read into the record. This came from former journalist Helen Callinan, who had had a conversation with Mr Bailey in the weeks after the murder.
Ms Callinan has alleged that he made an admission of guilt in this conversation, claiming that he’d killed Ms Toscan du Plantier in order to resurrect his journalistic career.
Ms Callinan wrote to the prosecutor’s office to explain that she’d only been given six days’ notice so it was not possible for her to travel. She did suggest exploring the possibility of giving her evidence through video link.
However, the prosecutor told the trial that it would be next week before such a facility could be organised and the trial would not be sitting next week. In the absence of most of the witnesses, statements have been read into the court record by presiding judge Frédérique Aline.
Yesterday, the judge read in a number of statements given by Maria Farrell, who had initially identified Mr Bailey as a man she saw wandering not far from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s holiday home on the night of the murder. She had changed her evidence in 2006, claiming that she was originally coerced by gardaí into tailoring her evidence to fit Mr Bailey’s description.
Both her initial statements, and those she provided after her Damascene conversion were read in. There was little context provided as to why she made such a dramatic volte face.
The absence of so many witnesses is having an impact on the quality of evidence being heard at the trial. What is staggering is the apparent lack of urgency the prosecutor’s office showed in relation to getting witnesses to travel.
The trial is the culmination of nearly 11 years of investigation and lobbying by those who were close to Ms Toscan du Plantier. It is highly unusual in being conducted in the defendant’s absence. And it has an international dimension.
One might have thought in such circumstances exhaustive efforts would have been made to secure the appearance of primary witnesses.