Husband of French murder victim dies of heart attack

FRANCE’S most celebrated film maker Daniel Toscan du Plantier died unexpectedly yesterday without seeing justice done in the investigation into his murdered second wife, Sophie.

In the wake of the West Cork killing more than six years ago, Mr Toscan du Plantier once stated: “There’s a devil somewhere in the hills of southern Ireland.”

Married since the tragedy, he and his third wife Melissa, ex-personal assistant, had a four-year-old daughter named Tosca. Mr du Plantier died of

a heart attack while attending a Berlin film festival yesterday. He was aged 61.

He made only one visit to the tragic spot where Sophie, 39, was murdered having previously vowed not to return to Ireland until the murder was solved.

During his sole July 2000 visit, he revealed: “When I learned of her death I preferred immediately to fix her image with her last words.

“I never saw her body or photographs. She’s buried in a little cemetery in my village in Gascony. I feel very close to her every day but in a quiet way, in a quieter way than before.”

Sophie’s son from her first marriage, 22-year-old Pierre Louis, remained close to Mr du Plantier who was the last known person to speak to his murdered wife.

A close friend of French President Jacques Chirac, Mr du Plantier was head of the French Academy of Cinema Arts.

Having worked with international stars such as Robert De Niro, Catherine Deneuve and Leonardo DiCaprio, he produced or worked on more than 100 films.

He was also honoured with France’s highest cultural honour, becoming a chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur, in the same year Sophie met a brutal death.

The violent death of the French socialite not only shocked the rural community in West Cork but provoked a debate in the Dáil and led to a confrontation between the Irish and French authorities.

At one stage, relations between Mr du Plantier and the gardaí were strained over the failure of the Director of Public Prosecutions to release the murder file to Sophie’s family.

Mr du Plantier claimed he had not been officially notified until after he heard the news on television.

Sophie’s relatives unsuccessfully applied through the French courts to seek access to the murder file. However, as there was no provision in Irish law for such an application, it was unsuccessful.

The whitewashed farmhouse, on a hillside at Toormore near Schull, had served as Sophie’s refuge from a high-profile life in France.

She had regularly been photographed at her husband’s side but liked to retreat to the 19th century farmhouse in its rugged coastal surrounds in West Cork.

Her son and other friends joined her on several occasions but Sophie had a reputation of being a loner.

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