Exclusive: ‘I put up with him for too long’ — Jules Thomas ends 30 year relationship with Ian Bailey
19th April 2021
Jules Thomas has had enough of Ian Bailey. The landscape artist told the Irish Mail on Sunday: ‘After 25 years I am sick and tired of banging on with this; it’s been just awful – all that stuff in print, the press attention, the photographers, everything.’© Provided by Extra.ie
For his part, Mr Bailey is ‘heartbroken’. The self-confessed former prime suspect in the murder of French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier, is looking for a new home in west Cork after his partner ended their 30-year relationship.
Ms Thomas told the English former journalist – who will be the subject of two new documentary series to be released on Netflix and Sky this year – that ‘we’re done’ and that she wants him out of her home and life as soon as possible. But Ms Thomas also told the MoS she felt compelled to stay by his side for years as if she had abandoned Mr Bailey, ‘it would have looked like he did it’.© Provided by Extra.ie
Mr Bailey, 64, confirmed his ‘journey with Jules is over’ when speaking to the MoS at the Skibbereen farmers’ market in west Cork.
‘I am feeling very raw at present, so I don’t want to speak about this right now, but it is over,’ he revealed with a deep sigh, raising a hand to his heart. At the moment I’m searching for somewhere to live and that’s very difficult down here with so little property available and such high demand for it.’
It is now almost 25 years since Ms Toscan du Plantier was brutally beaten to death in a frenzied attack outside her holiday home near Schull just before Christmas in 1996. However, nobody has yet been charged with her murder. Mr Bailey’s life has been tumultuous for the last quarter of a century. There have been two arrests, a highly public criminal investigation that ultimately delivered insufficient evidence to prosecute him in Ireland, and libel cases against eight newspapers.© Provided by Extra.ie Pic: Collins Courts
There was also a failed case against the State for wrongful arrest and a successful attempt by the State to extradite him to France, which was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. Throughout all this his partner Ms Thomas remained loyally by his side despite hating all the media and public attention focused on the couple. She continuously declined to comment to journalists or to say how she was coping or feeling as each court drama unfolded. Instead, she retreated in silence back to her studio and to her world of gardening, rarely leaving her rural homestead.
But speaking to the MoS, Ms Thomas said she has had enough and her relationship with Bailey is now over. ‘Why did I stick with it, what else could I do?’ she said when asked how she coped with the intense media circus that surrounded the couple.
‘If I had left him in the middle of all that it would have looked like he did it, so I just gritted my teeth.’
Despite the break-up, Ms Thomas said she is convinced Mr Bailey did not murder the French TV producer. ‘I am convinced of his innocence, always have been and that it was a stitch-up by the guards from the beginning.’
Ms Thomas has given Mr Bailey notice to leave the house she owns, and which they have shared for decades, the remotely situated Prairie Cottage at Lissacaha outside Schull in the heart of west Cork. The couple met a few months after Mr Bailey first came to the area in early 1991. At the time he was working in a fish factory after arriving from the UK intent on pursuing a career writing poetry. He initially rented a studio apartment on his future partner’s property. But as romance blossomed he moved up into the main cottage where Welsh-born Ms Thomas, who came to west Cork in the Seventies, was raising her three daughters from two previous marriages.© Provided by Extra.ie Pic: Collins Courts
The respected landscape artist and long standing member of the local community was charmed by the younger, handsome Heathcliff-like poet who took her into a gregarious new world of pubs, music and poetry sessions. Since then the couple have had a stormy, and occasionally violent romance, details of which were aired in public during Bailey’s libel trial.
However, Ms Thomas insists there was no single reason that influenced her decision to end the relationship now, only saying: ‘I’ve had enough… that’s all.’ She said: ‘He is very hard going. I put up with him for far too long and I realise now that it was a waste of time… it was always a one-way flow; men like him don’t ever bend or accommodate… it’s to do with their egos. Yes, he was physically abusive to me a couple of times; we split up for a while and then we got back together again.’
The severity of these beatings were laid bare during Mr Bailey’s libel trial in December 2003 when passages from his diaries referring to three violent incidents were read out to a shocked courtroom. The first incident occurred in 1993, when he attacked her so severely she sought hospital treatment, judges were told. In another incident in May 1996 one of Ms Thomas’s daughters knocked on a neighbour’s door for help. The court heard the neighbour found Ms Thomas in the bedroom, half on and half off the bed with bite marks on her hands, great clumps of hair pulled out of her head, a swollen eye and her bottom lip torn away from her mouth.© Provided by Extra.ie Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Mr Bailey said of the assaults at the libel trial: ‘It is to my eternal regret that in our 13 years together we had three fights.’ During the trial in Paris on May 17, 2019, a written statement was read into the record from Ms Thomas’s daughter Ginny, who told gardaí in Schull on January 2, 1997, that Mr Bailey had made a sexual advance on her when she was 18 while giving her a lift. The design and communication student also outlined details of two assaults that Mr Bailey had committed on her mother at their home in Schull.
He was later convicted in his absence by a French court of the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, 39, but has denied any involvement in her killing and denied ever making any admissions that he killed her. Rumours that the couple’s long relationship was finally at an end had been circulating around the farmers’ markets of west Cork. On Easter Sunday earlier this month, Ms Thomas and Mr Bailey arrived at opening day of the 2021 Schull farmers’ market in separate vehicles.
They set up separate stalls – Mr Bailey selling pizzas and chutneys, Ms Thomas with her artwork – well distanced from each other. The former couple had shared a stall together for many years at the popular seasonal market that celebrates its 21st anniversary this year. Mr Bailey appeared to enjoy the attention as he was often photographed and approached by curious non-locals and foreign tourists wanting to meet the man whose battle to clear his name had been headline news for decades.© Provided by Extra.ie Pic: Virgin Media News
Ms Thomas was the complete opposite: staying in the background, quietly selling her delicately painted prints of impressive landscapes and views of the west Cork countryside. As usual, she kept a low profile on Easter Sunday as Mr Bailey toured the stands to greet fellow traders. He told some market regulars why himself and Ms Thomas had separate stalls, explaining that after 30 years their journey together was over and that she wanted him out of her life, adding he was ‘heartbroken’ and ‘very sad’.
He also told acquaintances at the market that his former partner had served him a month’s notice to leave the house they had shared for 30 years and he could end up sleeping in his car. Mr Bailey said he had his eye on a house ‘one up, one down, maybe a bit cold in winter’, but there was a bidding war and he could not compete. He said he was getting the paperwork together to apply for a local authority house. But, as a single man he would be at the bottom of any social housing list, he added.
At the Skibbereen market last Saturday, Mr Bailey, the son of an English market butcher, sat in the back of an open van chatting and watching the world go by, cheerfully saluting locals, including a politician and her mother. One of the best farmers’ markets in the country, Skibbereen had a busy day, the best so far in a year of lockdowns, with food and plant stalls attracting plenty of business. Mr Bailey confirmed to the MoS that his ‘journey with Jules is over’.© Provided by Extra.ie Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Wearing a wide brimmed hat and flowing scarf, the 6ft 4in Englishman towered above most visitors, greeting some briefly, stopping to chat with others. He explained he does not have a stall of his own due to Level 5 restrictions that deemed books of poetry and his homemade chutney and pizzas as non-essentials. His former partner, who does not have a stall at the Skibbereen Market, said afterwards: ‘I don’t go out and talk to many people at the moment. I’ve had my first jab and I want to stay clean until the next one.’
In May 2015, Mr Bailey was ordered to pay all of the legal costs – estimated at between €2m and €5m – of his failed civil action over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the Toscan du Plantier murder. While he searches for a new home, Mr Bailey remains living under the same roof as his former partner. When asked about their living situation Ms Thomas, who works out of a studio attached to her home while Mr Bailey does his writing in a converted shed at the back of the house, said there ‘isn’t any small talk between us if that’s what you mean’, confirming they were still sharing the same kettle to boil water for tea.
When told her ex-partner is experiencing difficulty finding somewhere new to live she said: ‘He’s looking; he’ll find something.’ When asked if Mr Bailey could be heartbroken, she laughed ‘oh yes’, emphasising she is getting on with her own life. Down through the years, the artist said she used to spend all her Saturdays baking bread and cakes for their shared market stall the following day in Schull. ‘It was taking up my whole day. Now I don’t feel like baking any more food. I do quite well anyhow with my art.’
(Written by Isabel Conway)