Retired Detective Inspector says it’s ‘not too late to start Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder probe from scratch’
29th August 2021
A RENOWNED murder cop insists the brutal killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier should be investigated from scratch with DNA evidence never used before.
Retired Detective Inspector Pat Marry says forensic science has revolutionised the ways crimes are probed and he’s amazed it was never used in the high-profile case of the slain French film producer that featured on recent Sky and Netflix documentaries.
The State’s Forensic Science Laboratory in Dublin introduced DNA technology in case work in 1994 — two years before Sophie was murdered in her remote cottage in Schull, Co Cork, in December 1996.
No one has ever been charged with the murder and prime suspect Ian Bailey has repeatedly denied any involvement in the 39-year-old’s killing and protested his innocence.
‘SO MANY AVENUES’
But Marry says DNA testing should have been crucial for investigating gardai — and insists there’s no reason it still can’t be.
He told the Irish Sun: “I watched the two documentaries on the case and there’s so many things I would have done differently if I was involved in the case.
“I honestly believe that it’s not too late to investigate her murder from scratch, there are so many avenues you could go down.
“DNA testing would surely move gardai closer to bringing charges in the case. The killer surely placed their hands on her so traces would have been left.”
The former cop said it could “completely exonerate Ian Bailey”, adding: “It should have been considered and it’s not too late.”
Last October, the Irish High Court rejected an attempt by France to extradite Bailey. He was convicted of murder in his absence by a court in Paris in May 2019.
The Schull resident had no legal representation for the case, did not attend the court and described the process at the time as a farce.
Speaking on a trip to Dublin on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that a new trial could be arranged for Bailey, 64, if he agreed to travel to France.
However, the poet’s lawyer, Frank Buttimer, has said there are “no circumstances” in which he would go to France as a “condemned man” to face trial for the murder.
He also confirmed the Englishman will play no part in a Late Late Show discussion on the Sophie case next Friday. Sophie’s son, Pierre-Louis, will be a special guest on Ryan Tubridy’s first episode of the new season.
The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, is considering a request from Bailey for a review of the case file into the murder. But cops say no formal commitment has been given to take a new look at the killing.
A ‘missing’ bloodstained gate from the entrance to Sophie’s home is one aspect that has created much debate, with rumours cops lost it.
However it is understood the gate, which was retained by the Forensics Lab for years after the killing, was determined to have no value to the investigation and was later disposed of.
Marry has investigated a number of cases where DNA technology has been vital, including the rape and murder of Marilyn Rynn, 41, by David Lawler in Blanchardstown, Dublin, in December, 1995.
And he used it in identifying gangland murder victims Anthony Burnett, 31, and Joseph Redmond, 25, who were shot dead by Jason O’Driscoll in Co Louth in 2012.
He explained: “Marilyn’s body wasn’t found for 16 days after she disappeared and Lawler thought he had gotten rid of any evidence.
“But it was a very cold Christmas and her body froze, preserving the evidence. That case really showed how crucial DNA would be in the future of crime scene investigation.
“With Burnett and Redmond we were left with just skeletons but through DNA samples from the mothers we were able to identify him. They were murdered over €1,500 worth of drugs and O’Driscoll got the wrong men — it wasn’t them at all.”
‘BLACK PAD’ MURDERS
DNA testing was first used in 1987 in the UK to help solve the ‘Black Pad’ murders in Leicestershire, England.
Tragic Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, both aged 15, had been raped and murdered.
DNA enabled police to identify killer Colin Pitchfork, now 61, who later confessed to the crimes.
Seven years later, the Forensic Science Laboratory — now called Forensic Science Ireland — let the Gardai use DNA to solve crimes.
The first case involving DNA evidence was also heard before the Irish courts in 1994, with Mark Lawlor caged for life for the murder and sexual assault of an elderly woman during a burglary.
DNA also proved revolutionary in getting justice for the family of Phyllis Murphy, 23, who was killed in Newbridge, Co Kildare, in 1979.
Gardai were only able to nail John Crerar for the murder in 2001 after his DNA was matched to the original samples from the body.
Legislation for the establishment of a DNA database in Ireland came into law in 2014, but it wasn’t set up until the following year. It now contains over 50,000 samples, with many unsolved crimes just waiting for a DNA match to be solved.
Marry said genealogy websites are full of samples which might be a way of improving it even further.
‘MOST CRUCIAL BREAKTHROUGH’
He added: “DNA was the most crucial breakthrough for crime scene investigation since the birth of finger-printing but it could be even more useful.
“There might be GDPR issues when it comes to genealogy websites but there must be ways around this if serious crimes are being investigated.
“It could lead to more unsolved crimes being solved and there are many still in Ireland.
“Massively adding to that database could be vital in many other families receiving justice or other unidentified remains finally being identified.”
WORLD CLASS FACILITY
Forensic Science Ireland, which will move to a world-class facility in Backweston, Co Kildare, next year, released their annual report for 2020 last month. They revealed it identified 856 hits in 2020, assisting 1,102 cases.
Justice Minister Heather Humphries said: “FSI is central to both the investigation and adjudication of crime.
“I believe the strong forensic processes which FSI are leading, allied to good policing, can create a climate of deterrence for potential criminals and increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
“Since 2017, FSI have assisted in the identification of 48 human remains who had been unknown up to that point.”
TIMELINE OF DNA EVIDENCE
1953: Scientists James Watson and Francis Crick publish a model of the DNA helix.
1984: Boffin Alec Jeffreys and colleagues develop genetic fingerprinting — using DNA to ID people.
1986: The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is first described in science journals. The PCR process allows scientists to rapidly multiply small areas of DNA and is how Covid tests are carried out.
1987: In the UK forensic investigators use DNA testing to help solve the ‘Black Pad’ murders and to identify the killer as Colin Pitchfork, who later confessed to the crimes.
It’s the first case in which DNA is used to find a killer’s identity and also the first case in which a prime suspect was exonerated due to DNA evidence.
1994: Forensic Science Laboratory introduce DNA technology in casework. The first case involving DNA evidence — DPP v Mark Lawlor — is heard in the Irish courts.
1995: PCR and DNA fingerprinting play a starring role in the OJ Simpson murder trial. UK’s DNA database also set up this year.
1998: The FBI launches its national database.
1999: Ireland’s Forensic Science Laboratory introduce PCR-based DNA technology in casework.
2003: The Irish Attorney General asks Law Reform Commission to consider the ramifications of State setting up of a National DNA Database.
2007: Legislation dealing with the establishment of a database before Dail.
2010: Bill published by then Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
2011: General election takes place, followed by a change of government. The 2010 Bill is ditched.
2014: Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act is published.
Back to Schull, Ian Bailey: Is this man wronged by the French courts who found him guilty in absentia for the murder of Sofie du Plantier (a French woman who came to her Irish home for a few days Christmas 1996) Or is there Evidence to prove Mr Bailey guilty of the Murder in the Irish courts? Either way – there is a major travesty of Justice.