The family of murdered French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier have spoken of their hopes for tomorrow’s High Court decision over the possi...
The family of murdered French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier have spoken of their hopes for tomorrow’s High Court decision over the possible extradition of Ian Bailey to France to face trial for her killing.
r Justice Paul Burns will have the last word on whether the Englishman’s future lies in France, or if he can remain in his adopted home in west Cork.
The French authorities have already had two failed attempts to extradite Bailey to Paris and put him on trial for murder.
Undeterred by the Irish courts’ refusal to hand Bailey over, the French opted to try him in his absence in Paris and the former journalist was convicted of murder in May of last year. The 63-year-old did not attend the criminal trial in Paris, a process he previously described as “a farce”.
The three-judge Cour d’Assises in Paris found him guilty in absentia of the killing of the 39-year-old film-maker in west Cork in 1996. He was also sentenced to 25 years in a French prison.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent last week, Sophie’s uncle described the family’s apprehension about tomorrow’s court hearing.
Jean-Pierre Gazeau said the family are now just playing a waiting game, something they feel well accustomed to since the mother of one’s murder.
“Her life was taken away in awful conditions. The family have been left devastated. It happened so suddenly,” said Mr Gazeau, an internationally renowned physicist and mathematician.
“We can accept when someone passes away and we can explain. But here, we are in ignorance as to why and what happened.
“We have had so many disappointments before. We are ready to trust the judge, he has been fair before. We don’t want to get our hopes up too much.”
Sophie’s battered body was discovered in a laneway near her holiday home on the morning of December 23, 1996, by her neighbour. She had been murdered the night before.
Inside her house, there was no sign of a struggle. The post-mortem examination report makes for grim reading. Sophie put up strong resistance, fighting hard to stay alive.
She suffered severe injuries to her head, neck, chest, arms and legs. At least two different weapons – a concrete block and a smaller stone found at the scene – were used by her murderer.
For her family, the brutal nature of her final moments cannot be erased and should not be forgotten.
“Sophie was murdered in terrible conditions. She is one of thousands of women killed by a man in a case of femicide,” said her uncle.
“Sophie was a wonderful woman, full of life, a woman with a great sense of humour. Her life was taken away.”
In 2008, the French authorities initiated their own investigation. A magistrate was appointed, Judge Patrick Gachon, later replaced by Judge Nathalie Turquey.
It is almost unheard of for a criminal probe to take place outside the country where the crime occurred, but the French-led investigation was prompted by intense lobbying by the victim’s relatives and friends.
The early Garda probe into the murder was plagued with problems, security sources now acknowledge, as detectives with scant experience of serious crime were key members of the initial inquiry.
In 2018, a Garda watchdog report was highly critical of the Garda management of the investigation.
Bailey, who lived nearby and who was one of the first reporters to arrive at the murder scene, was arrested but he was never criminally charged and has repeatedly denied any involvement.
On two occasions, the Director of Public Prosecutions has ruled that there is insufficient evidence to charge him.
Last summer, the French authorities issued a third European arrest warrant.
Should this third extradition attempt be endorsed by the High Court tomorrow, Bailey faces standing trial overseas for a crime for which he has already been found culpable.
“If he is extradited, he will have to stand trial,” added Mr Gazeau.
“Sophie’s mother, Marguerite, is very ill. Her father, Georges, is aged 93 or 94. They are both very old and tired. All of us are waiting for justice. Twenty-four years. Can you imagine?”
Bailey spent last week preparing for his latest day in court.
The journalist-turned-poet told the Sunday Independent he has been busying himself by focusing his energy on his twin passions, wood carving and writing poetry.
Gardening has also served as a distraction, clearing out vegetable beds at the property he shares with his long-term partner, artist Jules Thomas, just outside Schull on the rugged, picturesque Mizen Peninsula.
Another ritual he uses to keep himself grounded in recent days has been to repeat the Serenity Prayer over and over in his mind: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.’
The Irish courts endorsed the latest European arrest warrant last December. On foot of it, Bailey was duly arrested and later bailed.
An extradition hearing ensued in July. In a sworn affidavit to the High Court, Bailey reiterated that he had nothing to do with the murder. He tries not to dwell “on being hunted”, he said.
While there is potential for an appeal whatever the court’s decision, a legal source described tomorrow’s proceedings as “Ian Bailey’s judgment day”.