Ian Bailey case: the main witnesses
Mini-profiles: who they are and what they said
Ian Bailey (witness for plaintiff) A Manchester-born journalist, he lived in Stockport until he was nine when his family moved to Gloucester where he later began working as a freelance reporter. He came to Ireland in 1991 when he met his partner, Jules Thomas, in Schull, where he set up home with her and her three daughters.
He reported on the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier for the Star and the Sunday Tribune before he was arrested in February 1997 and in January 1998 for questioning about the killing. He told the High Court that he contemplated suicide at one point, such was his sense of despair after his arrests.
He has always protested his innocence and denied that he ever made any admission to anyone that he killed the mother of one. He claims he was being framed for the killing by gardaí, based on a false statement which they coerced or induced Marie Farrell into making.
Jules Thomas (witness for plaintiff)
A Welsh-born artist, she came to west Cork in the early 1970s and bought the Prairie near Schull in 1974. She met Ian Bailey when he began working in a local fish factory in Schull. She rented him rooms at an adjacent property and a relationship developed.
She was arrested on February 10th, 1997, and on September 22nd, 2000, for questioning about the murder, but says a statement which she made during her first arrest in which she said she thought Bailey got up around 1am on the morning of December 23rd 1996 was not correct.
Such was the alleged torture they had to endure over the arrests she wrote to the DPP asking him to charge Bailey so he could clear his name. She confirmed Bailey assaulted her following drink-fuelled rows in 1993, 1996 and again in 2001, for which he received a suspended jail sentence.
Marie Farrell (witness for plaintiff)
The Longford-born mother of five became central to the murder investigation when she contacted gardaí on January 11th, 1997, using the alias Fiona, to say she had a seen a man around 3am at Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder. She was with a male companion at the time.
She later identified the man on the bridge as Ian Bailey and she confirmed this in testimony she gave on behalf of several newspapers in a libel action brought by Bailey in 2003. During that case, she also outlined what she said was continuous harassment of her by Bailey.
However, in 2005, she retracted this statement and said she had been coerced by gardaí into wrongly identifying Bailey as the man at Kealfadda Bridge. She said gardaí said that if she co-operated with them, her husband, Chris, would never need to know she was with another man that night.
Chief Supt Tom Hayes (Witness for plaintiff)
A detective sergeant based in Bandon in 1996, Chief Supt Hayes left west Cork after a promotion a few weeks before the murder but returned there in 2010 as chief superintendent and was in charge of the discovery process and continues to head up the Toscan du Plantier murder investigation which remains live.
Chief Supt Hayes rejected suggestions by retired garda John Wilson during the trial that Bailey was the subject of Garda surveillance reserved for serious criminals and said that many of 149 entries on the Garda Pulse system related to Bailey’s compliance with bail conditions set by courts.
He said the investigation remains live and that nothing had changed from the original investigation save for the retraction by Marie Farrell of her statement identifying Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge. Bailey remains a person of interest, the term that gardaí now use for a suspect, he said.
Det Garda Jim FitzGerald (witness for defence)
A detective based in Bandon, Det Garda Fitzgerald, now retired, became a central figure in the investigation through his dealings with both Marie Farrell and Martin Graham, both of who alleged misbehaviour and malpractice by him in the course of the investigation.
Farrell alleged he had taken a false statement from her on February 14th, 1997, after Bailey’s first arrest when she identified him at Kealfadda Bridge and she also alleged all the complaints of intimidation she made against Bailey were at Det Garda Fitzgerald’s behest. He denied both these charges.
Fitzgerald denied he was a “Jim will Fix it” for Farrell but he did concede in cross-examination that he had sought to prevent a complaint of assault against her husband on the basis that Farrell had been good to the gardaí in assisting with the investigation and “one always had to look at the bigger picture”.
Insp Maurice Walsh (witness for defence)
Walsh, now retired, was a detective sergeant based in Bandon at the time of the murder and was centrally involved in the investigation, including taking a statement from Marie Farrell in 1998 when she alleged that she had been threatened by Ian Bailey.
Farrell alleged that this statement, along with other statements of complaint against Bailey were at the behest of Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald and she did not know until the summer of either 1997 or 1998 whether Det Sgt Walsh was a party to what she alleged was the framing of Bailey.
She said she only discovered that Det Sgt Walsh knew that her statement incriminating Bailey was false during an incident in Schull Golf Club when she alleged Walsh exposed himself and said he “found it a real turn on setting up that Bailey bastard”. Walsh strongly denied the allegation
Garda Kevin Kelleher (witness for defence)
Kelleher, now retired, was a garda based at Schull at the time of the murder and it was he who identified the woman who rang Bandon Garda Station using the alias Fiona as Marie Farrell. He later approached her to confirm she was Fiona.
Farrell alleged that Kelleher showed her a video of Ian Bailey on December 28th, 1996, but this was denied by Kelleher. She also said he introduced her to Det Garda Fitzgerald and Det Garda Jim Slattery at his house when she told them about the sighting at Kealfadda Bridge.
She also alleged he was present at Ballydehob Garda Station on February 14th, 1997, when she signed blank statements. She later alleged he told her she would be arrested if she did not testify at the 2003 libel action. Kelleher denied her allegations and said she made the statement voluntarily.
Det Garda Jim Slattery (witness for defence)
A detective garda based in Bandon, Slattery, now retired, was the first detective to have contact with Marie Farrell, taking a statement from her on December 27th, 1996, on foot of a questionnaire in which she had reported seeing a weird looking man across from her shop on December 21st.
He also met Farrell on January 28th, 1997, at Kevin Kelleher’s house when she confirmed she was Fiona. He denied a memo of that meeting drawn up on February 7th by himself and Jim Fitzgerald was “an invention”, or that it was in the first person singular on the pretence of being a statement.
He was also at Ballydehob Garda Station with Kelleher and Fitzgerald on February 14th, 1997, when Farrell said she was asked to sign a number of blank sheets but he said that did not happen and she made a full statement which she signed and no inducements were offered to her to do so.
Martin Graham (witness for plaintiff)
A former British soldier who had served in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, Graham had suffered a mental breakdown after he left the British army and he began living an alternative lifestyle in the UK before coming to west Cork in the autumn of 1996.
He was staying at a house owned by Russell Barrett, an artist friend of Bailey’s, on the night that Bailey was released following his first arrest in February 1997 and he contacted gardaí after hearing comments made by Bailey about the murder.
He alleged Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald recruited him to spy on Bailey and gave him cash and cannabis to try and get Bailey high in the hope he might make admissions about the killing. Gardaí became dubious about him and his statements were omitted from the file sent to the DPP.
Robert Sheehan (witness for plaintiff)
A law officer in the Office of the DPP, Sheehan, now retired, was the officer with control of the Garda file on the murder and, in November 2001, he wrote an analysis of the evidence linking Ian Bailey to the murder and concluded the evidence did not warrant a prosecution.
He was also highly critical of the gardaí in his analysis. Although his analysis was not admitted in evidence in the High Court case, he was scathing of gardaí and expressed serious reservations about the veracity of statements taken from witnesses Marie Farrell, Michael Oliver and Geraldine Camier.
Following legal argument in the absence of the jury, Mr Justice Hedigan ruled Mr Sheehan could not give opinion evidence and his testimony ended rather abruptly.
Frank Buttimer (witness for plaintiff)
A practising solicitor since 1986, Frank Buttimer began to represent Ian Bailey in 2004 after Bailey’s original solicitor, Con Murphy, was appointed a circuit court judge. In the spring of 2004, he sent a solicitor’s letter threatening to sue Marie Farrell over comments she had made about Bailey in media interviews.
Buttimer said he realised Farrell was “being manipulated” when he learned she had made a complaint of harassment by Bailey on March 1st, 2004, in Schull, at a time when Bailey was in his office in Cork. “It was abundantly clear she was not being truthful in relation to the allegation.”
He was contacted by Farrell in April 2005 when she retracted her statement incriminating Bailey. In September that year, he wrote to her thanking her on behalf of Bailey for coming forward. He also gave an undertaking that Bailey would not be taking any legal action against her.
Malachy Boohig (witness for plaintiff)
State solicitor for west Cork since 1986, Malachy Boohig was the law officer who sent the Garda file on the murder to the DPP on September 29th, 1997, with “a recommendation on it for a direction” – but Robert Sheehan wrote back on October 8th with a series of questions for investigating gardaí.
Boohig told how in March 1998, following a meeting with senior gardaí at Bandon Garda Station, he was approached by Det Chief Supt Seán Camon, who asked him to approach his former UCC classmate, then minister for justice John O’Donoghue, to get him to get the DPP to direct a charge.
“I told him there was no way I was going to that. It was entirely inappropriate – the DPP is autonomous,” said Boohig, adding he made no such approach to O’Donoghue. He did some months later tell the DPP, Eamonn Barnes , of “the improper approach” by the senior garda.
Eamonn Barnes (witness for plaintiff)
Appointed DPP in 1975, Barnes served as director until his retirement in 1999 and, as such, the Garda file on the murder was referred to him but he declined to direct prosecution. “In my considered opinion, there was not a prima facie case upon which I could direct a prosecution.”
Barnes said Boohig notified him some time in 1998 about the approach by a senior Garda officer and while it was not unprecedented for gardaí to bring pressure to bear to get a charge, he took “exception to the extra step of trying to get the minister [for justice] involved.”
In 2011, he learned that Bailey was appealing a High Court order to extradite him to France and, concerned that the French may not have the full facts of the case, he alerted his successor James Hamilton to the incident involving Boohig and the senior Garda officer.
James Hamilton (witness for the plaintiff)
Hamilton took over from Eamonn Barnes as DPP in September 1999 and he said that while Barnes had given some preliminary decisions on the file, he had “not signed off finally” on the matter so he read the file closely and consulted with two senior counsel for their views on it.
“There was insufficient evidence – the test is that if a jury properly instructed might bring in a guilty verdict – and I decided not to prosecute and informed Sheehan and instructed him to communicate that decision to the gardaí and the reason for the decision not to prosecute,” he said.
He said the McAndrew review of the investigation led to “the same negative result” but the decision not to prosecute is not always final and new evidence, including advances in science, can be found. However, no such new evidence was presented by the time he retired in 2011.
Chief supt Dermot Dwyer (witness for defence)
Dwyer, now retired, was a detective superintendent based in Cork at the time of the murder and he, along with Det Supt Ted Murphy, supervised the investigation into the murder. Later as chief superintendent in West Cork, he also had a central involvement.
Bailey alleged that Dwyer called to his house on January 31st, 1997, and remarked that he knew more about the killing than he was purporting to know before concluding with a remark that he would place him at Kealfadda Bridge. Dwyer denied making any such comment.
Marie Farrell also alleged Dwyer urged her to stick by her story when she testified in the 2003 libel action. Dwyer told the High Court that “even the biggest liar that ever walked tells the truth sometimes” and he believed Farrell was telling the truth in her statement identifying Bailey.
Det Supt Ted Murphy (witness for defence)
A native of Togher near Dunmanway in west Cork, Det Supt Ted Murphy, now retired, was attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 1996 and was one of the senior officers heading up the investigation into the murder.
He told the court that he knew by May 1997 that Marie Farrell was lying about who she was with on the night that she said she seen Ian Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge, but gardaí remained anxious to corroborate her evidence through identifying her companion on the night.
He agreed he told a district court in January 1998 that Farrell was a key witness and although he decided after three meetings with her that there was no point in pursuing the matter any further, gardaí “left the door open” to see if she could resolve her problems in identifying her companion.
Helen Callanan (witness for defence)
From Innishannon in West Cork, Callanan was news editor at the Sunday Tribune at the time of the murder and, as such, liaised with Ian Bailey when he was submitting reports on the murder to the newspaper in late December 1996 and January 1997.
Her statement to gardaí was mentioned in the 2003 libel action but she was never called in that case so this was the first time people had a chance to hear her evidence in detail. She told the High Court that Bailey told her he had killed Toscan du Plantier.
She said she told Bailey in early February 1997 that she had heard he was a suspect in the case and that Bailey told her that: “It was me, I did it. I killed her. I did it to resurrect my career.”
She said she was “flabbergasted” and she did not consider Bailey to be engaging in “black humour”
Richie Shelley (witness for defence)
A fisherman who knew Bailey from his time working in a Schull fish factory, he and his wife Rosie met Bailey and Thomas in Hackett’s Bar on New Year’s Eve 1998. They were invited by them to their house under the impression there were others going to be there.
Shelley, who also testified at the 2003 libel case, told how Bailey got out a scrapbook of cuttings about the murder around midnight and spent about an hour talking to them about the case before later coming back into the kitchen and breaking down.
“I thought it was a bit strange to see such a big man crying. He put his arms around me and said “I did it, I did it . . . I went too far,” said Shelley, adding he was shocked because he understood Bailey to be confessing to the murder. He said he would remember it until the day he dies.
Anne Cahalane (witness for defence)
Cahalane confirmed she was only asked to give evidence two days before she testified for the state. She told how she had been recruited to play Sophie Toscan du Plantier in a Crimeline reconstruction broadcast on RTÉ on January 20th, 1997.
She told the court she was at the reconstruction at Three Castles Head in mid-January 1997 when Bailey “bounded” over to her and told her he was a journalist covering the story and that he knew Toscan du Plantier and had met her on the walk to Three Castles Head.
“He said that he knew her . . . he told us that he met her on that walk, the walk at Three Castles Head,” she said of the encounter. She came forward to gardaí in 2012 after she read a newspaper report in which Bailey said that he never knew Toscan du Plantier.
Fred says what a lot to digest. Cronyism, corruption at An Gardai Siochana is summed up by Det Supt Ted Murphy NCBI….and then Robert Sheehan the law officer.
The DPP were resolute in their decision not to proceed but to people out there fascinated with seeking the Truth and if there is corruption, and false fabrication and manipulation of a witness central to the case, we need every contribution possible. There are two documentaries being aired at present. The world is engaged and there are many questions to be answered. I recommend the article written by Philip Watson for a factual outline from another perspective. What is interesting is that there was a William Butler Yeats poem about Death and the honey jar was placed on the book which identified this poem. Surely this is too much of a coincidence especially as we know how scared Sophie RIP is supposed to have been when she witnessed the “White Lady” and all the conjecture that surrounds this ghost who warns of death.
Investigators soon discovered that du Plantier had been alone in the house that night. When the guards (as the police are known colloquially in Ireland) began to search the house, one of the first things they discovered, on the kitchen table, was an anthology of Irish poetry held open by a pot of honey. The page revealed a short poem by WB Yeats titled A Dream of Death; the first two lines are: ‘I dreamed that one had died in a strange place/Near no accustomed hand.’