DIETER Krombach must haunt Ian Bailey’s worst nightmare. In 2009, the German doctor was beaten up, bound and gagged and thrust into a van. His assailants were Russian criminals hired to kidnap Herr Krombach from his native Germany and deliver him across the border to France.
This they did for a fee of €20,000, paid by Frenchman Andre Bamberski. For 30 years Bamberski had pursed the German whom he believed was responsible for the killing of his 14-year–old daughter Kalinka in 1987. The girl’s death occurred in Germany, where her mother was living with the doctor.
Under a law that provides for investigating the death of a French citizen in another country, Herr Krombach was charged with murder.
The French attempted to extradite him, but the German courts refused on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. A murder trial of the German went ahead in absentia in 1995, concluding with his conviction. That was subsequently annulled on procedural grounds.
Through it all, the girl’s father pursued the man he believed had brutally murdered his daughter. His efforts culminated with the cross-border kidnap which ended with the discovery of Herr Krombach in a badly beaten state outside the main courthouse in the French town of Mulhouse.
Two years later, he was convicted of the teenager’s manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 2015, Andre Bamberski received a one-year suspended sentence for ordering the kidnap of his daughter’s killer.
What has this got to do with Ian Bailey?
The family of Sophie Tuscan Du Plantier, the Frenchwoman murdered in West Cork in 1996, believe that Mr Bailey was the perpetrator. He did feature in the Garda investigation but he has never been charged. An examination of the case by an official in the DPP’s office in 2001 concluded that the investigation was flawed and that Mr Bailey simply had no case to answer. The DPP’s office reviewed the file on a number of occasions, each time coming to the same conclusion.
Yet, the French charged him with murder under the law used to pursue the German doctor. They have also attempted twice to have him extradited. On both occasions, the Irish courts have refused to comply. His trial in absentia is due to proceed in the near future.
The case for a murder charge in France is based largely, if not exclusively, on the same evidence — some of which has been completely discredited — that the gardaí relied on, in preparing a file for the DPP. Logically, it would suggest that the threshold for a charge in this case is alarmingly lower in France than it is here.
What if Mr Bailey woke up one day on the beaches of Normandy, or in some Parisian suburb? What if he was whisked from his West Cork home in the dead of night and somehow delivered to France, bound and gagged?
He would undoubtedly be detained and hauled before a French court to answer the murder charge. The smart money says he would be convicted. Such an outcome would be more an indictment of the French attitude to administering justice rather than any reflection of Mr Bailey’s guilt or innocence.
In comparison to such a terrifying fate, this week’s news that he is now in hock for between €2m and €5m is relatively benign.
On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled he must foot the bill of his failed legal action against the state for damages. In 2015, a High Court jury rejected Mr Bailey’s claim after a 64-day hearing.
He was suing for damages on the basis that he had been wrongfully arrested for the murder as part of a campaign by the gardaí to pin the crime on him. The jury didn’t buy it. The legal bill is estimated to be anywhere from €2m-€5m.
The ruling is just one more constraint shackling him to a past he appears unable to escape. Mr Bailey is effectively confined to this jurisdiction. Were he to leave, it is possible, if not probable, that he would be detained and ultimately extradited from a third country to France. As such, he can’t visit his native England and, a few years ago, had to miss his mother’s funeral.
Within the West Cork milieu where he has lived since 1991, there are many who regard him as a persona non grata. The murder and fallout from it has all contributed towards some continuing to give their neighbour a wide berth. That has been his world for the last 20 years, and it is unlikely to change now.
Then there is Mr Bailey’s own character. He is not somebody who might easily elicit sympathy. The recently-produced podcast West Cork, based on the Sophie Tuscon Du Plantier murder and the subsequent fallout, provides a fresh insight into Mr Bailey and all that has been visited on him.
In some instances he does betray a degree of hubris that does no favours to his standing in the public mind.
Towards the end of the 13-part podcast, the makers accompany him from his Dublin hotel room to the Four Courts for one of the extradition hearings. This is a man whom the courts could have decreed should be extradited and probably locked up for a good chunk of his remaining span of years.
Yet he comes across as possessing the nerves of an actor before the curtain goes up on opening night. He is quite obviously enjoying the attention of the podcast-makers, taking care that his appearance is just right for the battery of cameras likely to descend outside the court, revelling it would seem, in his relevance.
Over 20 years on from Ms Du Plantier’s violent death it is inevitable that Mr Bailey will always, in the public mind, remain associated with it, irrespective of his innocence as decreed by the law. For some, the cloud of suspicion will follow him to the grave, irrespective of the paucity of evidence. Others will view the whole affair as an example of the gardaí entangling the innocent in their net of incompetence.
Then there is Ms Du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis Baduey-Vignaud, who also features in the West Cork podcast. He still visits the area regularly. A teenager losing his mother in a violent death is a life altering experience, but the failure to hold the perpetrator to account must ensure that an element of his bereavement remains unaddressed as he approaches the foothills of middle-age.
As things stand, the perpetrator remains at large, unless he — and it is almost definitely a male — has gone to his grave with the terrible secret. The conclusion of the matter of costs in Mr Bailey’s latest legal action represents the closing of another long chapter in the story. It remains to be seen whether there is any more to be written.