Jim Sheridan says it’d be ‘crazy’ to send Ian Bailey to France as he begs gardai reopen Sophie Toscan Du Plantier case
- 7:00, 10 Jun 2021
- Updated: 21:45, 9 Jun 2021
JIM Sheridan has claimed it would be “crazy” to send Ian Bailey to France — where he was convicted for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier — while he’s begging gardai to reopen the case here.
The My Left Foot director believes his upcoming TV documentary delves deeper than anything before into the shocking crime that still haunts a West Cork community, 25 years later.
He told the Irish Sun: “It would be crazy to think that Ian Bailey should go to France, when he is asking to be tried in the jurisdiction where it happened.
“I don’t think anyone wanted (star witness) Marie Farrell to go over to France either.
“I back, as Ian Bailey suggested last week, a complete look by the Garda Commissioner at the whole thing again — or at least an admittance of the limits of the original Irish investigation.
“Ian Bailey is actually writing to the Garda Commissioner begging him to do this.”
French TV producer, Toscan du Plantier, 39, was bludgeoned to death at her holiday home in rural west Cork on 23 December 1996.
Her body was discovered near the remote cottage having suffered multiple head injuries and wearing her night clothes.
Bailey, a journalist from Manchester, England, was covering Sophie’s murder and initially filed newspaper articles on the case until he became the prime suspect.
The chief suspect has always denied any role whatsoever in Du Plantier’s death, and was never charged in Ireland in relation to the killing.
In May 2019 he was found guilty in his absence by a French court of Du Plantier’s murder.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and an attempt to have him extradited was made under a European Arrest Warrant.
However, a High Court judge ruled against the application.
Some legal commentators have raised profound concerns that the conviction is a serious miscarriage of justice and pointed to how the Irish Supreme Court heard that the investigation into the murder was criticised by the then DPP as being “thoroughly flawed”.
While Bailey, who agreed to be interviewed for the new Sky series and was not paid for his contributions, believes the new documentary will prove his innocence, the director himself wants everyone to watch before making up their minds.
Jim told us: “For me the over-riding thing is to try and find the truth of this story. I have to sit on both sides, he could have done it, maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t. But I certainly gave everyone a right of reply.”
Pushed further on the conjecture in respect of Ian Bailey as the guilty party but who has always vigorously maintained his innocence, Jim said: “When someone is called a murderer there is immediately an aura around them.
“It gives them a notorious elevated status, and all conjecture flows around what did he say, how did he look, what did he actually mean. It stops being a rational, normal approach to this person.”
Although the acclaimed director spoke to Toscan du Plantier’s family, he admits enquiries elsewhere in France were frustrated.
Jim said: “As you’ll see in the doc, I don’t think we were allowed to investigate in France. It’s absurd to have a situation where you can’t question anyone in France because the French won’t let you.”
The director said Covid also limited what could be done but recounted how he visited Sophie’s grave at Combret in the Lozere region to pay his respects.
Sky’s decision to make available all episodes of new doc, Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie, on June 20, sees the broadcaster stealing a march on rival Netflix’s investigation, Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, which won’t air until June 30.
Jim said: “We are not really in competition with them. I think, they’re in competition with us. For me, the overriding thing is to try and find the truth of this story.”
The filmmaker revealed viewers will find out early in his series the deeply personal reason he wanted to tell the story of the murder.
Jim said: “I love West Cork, I love Schull, but after a while I realised the death of my younger brother (Frankie, who died from a brain tumour, age 11) was compelling me to tell Sophie’s story.”
He compared the shock of his younger brother’s sudden passing 54 years ago to a roundabout “that everybody keeps going back to and can’t get off”.