Gardaí have new information showing self-confessed suspect Ian Bailey knew Sophie Toscan du Plantier before her murder – and may even have had dinner with her.
The new Garda statement, picked up by detectives in recent weeks, claims Mr Bailey admitted to being familiar with Ms Toscan du Plantier but then allegedly added: “I don’t want the police to know. “
A comprehensive re-examination of all the facts and allegations in this case looks into this area, with advances on alleged encounters between the pair in relation to Cape Clear Island off the coast of South West Cork and other locations.
There are said to have been ‘marked’ Garda developments in a number of areas in the course of the re-examination, with progress on several fronts.
Meanwhile, Ms Toscan du Plantier’s former lover, Bruno Carbonnet, who lives in France, is being sought out over a claim that he and the murdered French filmmaker ate dinner at the house Mr Bailey shared with his ex-partner Jules Thomas shared.
Mr Carbonnet, who had previously been eliminated as a suspect by Gardaí, declined to comment Irish Independent this week on the specific allegation that he ate in the company of Mr Bailey and Mrs Toscan du Plantier.
He told that Irish Independent: “As you must know, I have made no (public) comment on this criminal affair.”
Mr Carbonnet did not address possible Garda or French police contacts with him – but he has long since proved his innocence with an ironclad alibi and official data.
He was undeniably in Paris at the time of the brutal murder at Toormore, near Schull in West Cork, on the night of 22 December 1996.
Mr Bailey has long claimed he never knew the victim before her brutal murder in December 1996, although he admits he may have seen her once through a kitchen window.
The Frenchwoman’s former neighbor Alfie Lyons issued a Garda statement claiming Mr Bailey and Ms Toscan du Plantier had met. He said publicly in a 2003 libel trial that he was “90 per cent certain” that he introduced Mr. Bailey and the murder victim. Mr. Lyons has since died.
His partner Shirley Lyons said in court at the time: “I don’t think you can identify anyone through that kitchen window. It’s pretty opaque. The sink is in front of the window.”
Gardaí, meanwhile, have received reports of a festival on Cape Clear in 1995. In one, a witness said he identified Mr Bailey, whom he knew, in an alleged conversation with a blonde woman, who the witness later recognized as Mrs Toscan du Plantier from media reports of her murder.
There is also a separate report of an alleged meeting with the victim on the Baltimore to Cape Clear ferry.
Mr Bailey is said to have previously told others – including Yvonne Ungerer, Ann Cahalane and Helen Callanan, who have all made Garda statements – that he knew Ms Toscan du Plantier. He disputes these interpretations.
There are also claims that he was seen by witnesses on the main street of Schull near Mrs Toscan du Plantier on Saturday December 21, 1996. Her battered body was found in the driveway of her vacation home the next morning.
The counterclaim is misidentification.
Mr Bailey has always fervently insisted he is innocent of the crime, while his lawyer called the 2019 French trial in absentia, which convicted him of murder and imposed a 25-year sentence, a “farce”. The Irish courts have refused his extradition to France.
Meanwhile, key witnesses in West Cork are being sworn to secrecy amid growing signs of a Garda reinvestigation steadily gaining momentum.
Locals are now agitating for action over Ireland’s most notorious unsolved murder, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin invited to a ‘Concert for Sophie’ to be held in Schull next month.
Mr. Martin is unable to attend due to a prior commitment.
In a statement issued in February 1997, two months after the murder, local Bill Fuller told gardaí, “I would like to raise one more point that I think is important.” What he says next became ahead Court disputed by Mr Bailey.
“About three weeks after the murder I was at the home of Jules Thomas in Prairie, Schull, Co Cork. That was before Ian Bailey was arrested. Jules Thomas and Ian Bailey were there. Ian Bailey wore a women’s skirt. I asked him why he was wearing a lady’s skirt. He said it should help him relax.”
Locals are now agitating for action on the infamous unsolved murder
Mr Fuller continued: “Ian Bailey spoke about the murdered French woman and her French lover… (and) explained that the French woman and her French boyfriend (Bruno Carbonnet) were at her home for dinner two years earlier (1995). “That was the Saturday before Ian Bailey’s (40th) birthday”, which fell on Monday January 27, 1997.
Mr Fuller has issued a new, sweeping statement to Gardaí in recent months.
Again, Mr. Bailey denies these allegations entirely and has sworn under oath that no such conversation ever took place, while claiming – like Ms. Thomas – that separate allegations by Mr. Fuller, a cook at Schull, are completely false.
But Mr. Fuller said so Irish Independent that he had “told the truth all along” and would do so on any future occasion.
The fact that Schull’s switchboard was converted to digital in December 1996, which was remarkable for the time, is said to be particularly helpful in the investigation. “It had the ability to provide detailed billing information,” said a Gardaí-held statement.
This allowed verification of witnesses’ claims that they allegedly received telephone calls from the homes of interested individuals in the aftermath of the murder, and sometimes for years afterwards. The probe continues.
Mr Bailey filed a complaint with An Garda Síochána this week, alleging he was verbally abused by a person visiting Schull market last Sunday.
He told his “friends, fans and followers” on social media, “I’m just sending a message that I will not tolerate abuse.”
An attempt was made by the Irish Independent to contact Mr. Bailey and Mrs. Thomas.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/republic-of-ireland/gardai-probe-new-claims-that-ian-bailey-had-met-sophie-toscan-du-plantier-prior-to-her-murder-41893656.html Gardaí probe new claims that Ian Bailey had met Sophie Toscan du Plantier prior to her murder