Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder, Christmas, 1996. Sometimes you need to step back in order to progress. “Justice delayed is Justice Denied.” Shielding a murderer can never be acceptable yet someone, somewhere in Ireland, is doing just that. GSOC (the Policing Watchdog) 2018 report.

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Irish Examiner

GSOC investigation: Du Plantier evidence tampered with

Fri, 03 Aug, 2018 – 01:01

By Dan Buckley and Noel Baker

The policing watchdog has voiced “serious concerns” over the deliberate tampering with key documents held by gardaí relating to the investigation into the 1996 murder in West Cork of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

In a report published yesterday, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) found no evidence of any high-level corruption by gardaí, as alleged by journalist Ian Bailey, his partner Jules Thomas, and witness Marie Farrell.

The report also found that other important garda exhibits connected with the case went missing, including a blood-spattered gate taken from close to where Ms Toscan Du Plantier’s body was found, a wine bottle found four months after the murder in a field near the scene, and a black overcoat belonging to Ian Bailey.

Mr Bailey told the Irish Examiner he is “disappointed, but not surprised” at the findings of the GSOC report.

“My initial reaction, having not studied the report in detail, is clearly that I am disappointed, but I am not surprised,” Mr Bailey said.

Also speaking to this paper, Mr Bailey’s solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said: “The reality of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission as an organisation is that it is powerless, in any meaningful way, to carry out any form of proper investigation into garda corruption.

“I believe it was never intended to be properly resourced or to have proper investigative powers. Accordingly, nothing in the report is anything other than as expected. The lack of any meaningful outcome in the report will not deter Mr Bailey from continuing to seek whatever remedies are available to vindicate his position.”

In the report, GSOC says its deliberations had been hampered by the refusal of a number of garda detectives involved in the case to co-operate with them and the fact that some of the gardaí who investigated the murder have since retired or died.

In relation to this, Mr Bailey said: “It is interesting to note that a number of members of the guards were able to shield behind their retirement as a way of refusing to co-operate.”

In its report, GSOC says it is most concerned with pages that went missing from the original garda ‘jobs book’ while in the custody of gardaí.

Garda jobs books are meant to contain an entire record of the progress of a major investigation, outlining all actions undertaken by gardaí and the reasons that these actions were raised.

“This concern is compounded further by the fact that the specific pages missing are from an area of the book when Ian Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect in the murder by gardaí — and, as such, they are potentially very significant,” says the report.

It notes that while the name of Ian Bailey appeared in Jobs Book 1 at a relatively early stage of the investigation, the first formal nomination of him as a suspect was contained at Job number 166 in Book 2 on page 9. The next two pages of the book had been seemingly ripped (or cut) out of the book and had left a rough torn stub.

GSOC said it was unable to clarify when the interference may have taken place other than believing it was likely to have occurred since a review of the file in 2002, but possibly as far back as the 1990s.

The commission said it had considered whether the interference with the Jobs Book warranted sending a file to the DPP, but they had chosen not to on the basis that one of the main gardaí who had responsibility for the documents had since died.

The report says: “While there was general co-operation from garda members during the course of the GSOC investigation, a number of garda members were less than co-operative and thus it was not possible for GSOC to fully establish some of the details pertaining to the arrests of Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas. Other garda members who may [or who may not] have had information of relevance to the GSOC investigation, are deceased.”

There was no explanation offered by gardaí for the missing pages. GSOC concluded that there was “a lack of administration and management of the incident room” during the murder investigation, but found no evidence of malpractice or corruption.

The report says: “The significant amount of missing original garda documentation, witness statements, suspect files and physical exhibits in the garda murder investigation suggest to GSOC that there was a lack of administration and management of the incident room [even when viewed through the lens of the time] as opposed to clear evidence of malpractice or corruption.”

Among the missing exhibits outlined by GSOC are: A blood-spattered gate taken from close to where Ms Toscan du Plantier’s body; A French wine bottle found four months after the murder in a field next to the scene; A black overcoat belonging to Ian Bailey; The original memo of interview of Jules Thomas following her arrest in 1997; An original witness statement from Marie Farrell provided on March 5, 2004; An original witness statement from Jules Thomas dated February 19, 1997.

“A number of factors led to Ian Bailey being identified as a suspect at an early stage of the murder inquiry — his subsequent arrest and the arrest of his partner, Jules Thomas, therefore could not, as the complainants allege, have been construed as unlawful or illegal,” says the report.

“GSOC found no evidence that Marie Farrell was coerced or intimidated [as alleged by Ian Bailey and Marie Farrell] into making false statements against Ian Bailey; in fact, a phonecall from the Gsoc at the completion of the investigation into the complaints of Ian Bailey, Catherine ‘Jules’ Thomas and Marie Farrell listened to in the course of the investigation could be seen as evidence of a relationship between Marie Farrell and an investigating garda that was not coercive.

“While it does certainly appear that journalists were in possession of information in advance of Ian Bailey’s arrests, Gsoc was unable to establish the source of the media’s information.”

The report also notes contact by phone between journalists reporting on the case and Bandon Garda Station. While it concludes that no specific inappropriate disclosure of information by garda members to journalists was found by Gsoc in the phonecalls, “conversations between garda members indicated a concern that there were members of the press being briefed”.

Garda watchdog draws 10 conclusions in complaints report

The 10 conclusions made in the Garda Ombudsman’s report into complaints by Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas, and Marie Farrell:

1. It is GSOC’s view, formed after an extensive investigation, that while there was evidence of a lack of administration and management of aspects of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, there was no evidence of the high-level corruption by gardaí alleged by the complainants Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas, and Marie Farrell.

A number of factors led to Ian Bailey being identified as a suspect at an early stage of the murder inquiry his subsequent arrest and the arrest of his partner, Jules Thomas, therefore could not, as the complainants allege, have been construed as unlawful or illegal.

Sophie Toscan Du PlantierSophie Toscan Du Plantier

2. GSOC found no evidence that Marie Farrell was coerced or intimidated (as alleged by Ian Bailey and Marie Farrell) into making false statements against Ian Bailey; in fact, a phone call listened to in the course of the investigation could be seen as evidence of a relationship between Marie Farrell and an investigating garda that was not coercive.

While it does certainly appear that journalists were in possession of information in advance of Ian Bailey’s arrests, GSOC was unable to establish the source of the media’s information.

3. It is a matter of grave concern to GSOC that a large number of original statements and exhibits relating to the murder investigation are missing. It is GSOC’s view that a lack of administration and management are the likely explanation for this state of affairs. GSOC found no evidence of corruption.

4. As a result of the examination of material conducted during this investigation, it is GSOC’s view that it does appear that journalists were in possession of sensitive information about the murder at the time of the Garda murder enquiry.

5. While there was general co-operation from Garda members during the course of the GSOC investigation, a number of Garda members were less than co-operative and thus it was not possible for GSOC to fully establish some of the details pertaining to the arrests of Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas. Other Garda members who may (or who may not) have had information of relevance to the GSOC investigation are now deceased.

Ian BaileyIan Bailey

6. Pages missing from the original Garda ‘Jobs Books’ in relation to the Garda murder investigation are of the most concern to GSOC. These books form a complete record of all activity undertaken in respect of a major or critical incident (or investigation) along with rationale for the decisions made.

This concern is compounded further by the fact the specific pages missing are from an area of the book when Ian Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect in the murder by gardaí — and as such, they are potentially very significant.

7. The books are hard-backed in nature, A4 in size, and the pages are retained in the book by way of a glued-in spine. As a result, it would not be possible for pages to simply fall out of the book by accident and for them to be removed, this would have to have been a deliberate act.

The original books were seized by GSOC as part of this investigation in order that forensic tests could be conducted to try and establish if the missing pages held any information of significance (or to offer clues as to why they may have been removed). The results of these tests are discussed earlier in this report…

At the time of writing, no explanation has been found from anyone within An Garda Síochána as to when these pages were removed, how this was done, by whom, and for what purpose.

However, this may well have occurred after December 2002.

8. The significant amount of missing original Garda documentation, witness statements, suspect files, and physical exhibits in the Garda murder investigation suggest to GSOC that there was a lack of administration and management of the incident room (even when viewed through the lens of the time) as opposed to clear evidence of malpractice or corruption.

It was not entirely clear from statements provided to GSOC who was in charge of the investigation at any particular moment in time and who was ultimately responsible for strategic decisions (including the arrest plans).

The lack of forensic material obtained from the scene, particularly given the precise nature of the murder and the state in which the body of Madame Toscan Du Plantier was discovered, is also of concern to GSOC.

9. The review of telephone call recordings provided to GSOC during this investigation indicate that Marie Farrell had not been under pressure in her interactions with a detective garda to provide accounts.

The relationship between the detective garda and Marie Farrell appears to GSOC to not have been appropriate at times.

10. GSOC was not able to substantiate other serious allegations such as that a witness had been provided with illegal drugs by gardaí, though the telephone calls which have been reviewed noted that drugs were mentioned by the witness himself.

The reluctance of witnesses (including the witness himself) to co-operate with Gsoc in relation to this aspect of the case has resulted in these allegations being incapable of being proven to any evidential standard.

gardaombudsman.ie

Report says no evidence to suggest Bailey was framed

By Noel Baker

On December 20, 2011, a complaint was received at GSOC from Ian Bailey, close to 15 years to the day since the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier.

Almost seven years later, the report by the Garda watchdog found issues of grave concern, but sums up the situation in one sentence: “There is no evidence to suggest that Ian Bailey was ‘framed’ for the murder or that evidence was falsified, forged, or fabricated by members of the Garda Síochána.”

The report outlines Mr Bailey’s arrests, on suspicion of a murder he has always denied, on February 10, 1997, and January 27, 1998. On both occasions, Mr Bailey was released without charge.

In his witness statements to GSOC, provided on March 22, 2012, Mr Bailey describes the atmosphere during his first arrest as “aggressive, accusatory, and hostile”, claiming that one detective garda repeatedly jabbed his finger into his side and arm, stating: “You did it, just admit it, everyone knows you did it, you better get your act together.”

He alleged a garda said: “Even if we don’t pin this on you, you’re finished in Ireland and you’ll be found dead in a ditch with a bullet in the back of your head.”

He made further allegations, including of being given a black and tan colour shirt at the garda station, of being told his partner, Jules Thomas, accepted his guilt, and that stories repeatedly appeared about him in the media as the “self-confessed prime suspect”.

Regarding the January 1998 arrest, Mr Bailey made allegations including being told that a small basement cell was waiting for him in Mountjoy.

On February 12, 1998, a file was submitted by gardaí to the DPP which decided on November 7, 2001, that a prosecution would not be sustainable.

It has been a long and winding road, pockmarked by complaints made by Mr Bailey in relation to the gardaí and its handling of the case, including that it was a corrupt investigation “in so far as it related to Mr Bailey” and that he had been unlawfully arrested.

The GSOC reports note that Mr Bailey was first formally nominated as a suspect for the murder of Ms du Plantier by gardaí on December 27, 1996.

“From the material reviewed by GSOC in this investigation, it appears that there was a reasonable belief held by gardaí at that time that Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas were responsible for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier,” says the report.

“The arrests of both were therefore lawful.”

GSOC found no evidence sufficient to sustain either a criminal or disciplinary charge that Mr Bailey or Ms Thomas’s identities and personal details were transmitted at the time of their arrest in February 1997 by gardaí to the media.

As for Mr Bailey’s rearrest a year later, GSOC said “there is nothing to suggest this was unwarranted or that he was wrongly accused” given the context of the probe at that time.

It said the recollection by a former state solicitor did not support an allegation by Mr Bailey that unidentified senior garda officers had exhorted the state solicitor in West Cork “to bring improper influence as a result of his collegiate acquaintance with the then Minister for Justice to bring a prosecution against Mr Bailey in the late nineties”.

On December 20, 2011, a complaint was received at GSOC from Ian Bailey, close to 15 years to the day since the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier.

Marie Farrell’s relationship with garda ‘questionable’

By Joe Leogue

A detective garda on the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case had a “questionable” relationship with a key witness in the investigation that “appears to GSOC to not have been appropriate at times”, the garda watchdog found.

However, the GSOC report into the complaints of Ian Bailey, Jules Thomas, and Marie Farrell found no evidence to support Ms Farrell’s allegation that she was put under pressure to provide statements that implicated Mr Bailey in the murder.

Marie FarrellMarie Farrell

Ms Farrell alleges she was “coerced and cajoled” by gardaí into making false statements against Mr Bailey, and that she was asked to sign blank statements, after which a detective garda told her “that he would fill in the statements to say that Ian Bailey had threatened her”.

Retired gardaí denied this; told GSOC that Marie Farrell was “attention seeking and not credible”; and said she willingly co-operated with their investigation.

Ms Farrell told GSOC that a detective garda involved in the case “got very close to her family” in 1997 and that “there were rumours around Schull that she and this detective garda were having an affair, which she denied”.

The report notes that: “The relationship between the detective garda and Marie Farrell appears to GSOC to not have been appropriate at times.”

However, a review of telephone recordings “indicate that Marie Farrell had been under no pressure in her interactions with a detective garda [and indeed other members of the Garda Síochána] to provide accounts”, GSOC found. GSOC reported that “in fact, a phone call listened to in the course of the investigation could be seen as evidence of a relationship between Marie Farrell and an investigating garda that was not coercive”.

“The relationship between this detective garda and Marie Farrell would appear to have been questionable at times,” GSOC concluded. “It cannot be explained why Marie Farrell provided witness statements in the first instance before retracting her evidence in the garda investigation.”

Two arrests of Jules Thomas ruled as lawful by GSOC

By Niall Murray

The two arrests of Ian Bailey’s partner Jules Thomas in connection with the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder were lawful, GSOC has found.

She complained to the Garda watchdog in April 2012 about her treatment by gardaí in its investigation of the December 1996 killing.

Jules ThomasJules Thomas

Originally from Cardiff in Wales, Ms Thomas has lived in Ireland since 1972. She had three daughters before beginning her relationship with Mr Bailey’s in 1992, and the couple live outside Schull in West Cork.

Mr Bailey told GSOC that he and Ms Thomas attended the murder scene on the afternoon the news emerged in December 1996.

She was arrested twice in connection with the murder inquiry, but has never been charged in relation to it.

The couple were both arrested on February 10, 1997, and taken, 90 minutes apart, to Bandon Garda Station, where local and national media had gathered.

She was further arrested by a detective sergeant on September 22, 2000, on suspicion of assisting an offender. One of her three daughters was also arrested on the same occasion.

Ms Thomas complained to GSOC that both her arrests and detention periods were unlawful.

The GSOC report said the decision to arrest her on the first occasion was based on information gardaí had at the time, and on her account of her and Mr Bailey’s movements at times material to the murder investigation.

GSOC said that, from the material it has reviewed, “it appears there was a reasonable belief held by gardaí at that time that Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas were responsible” for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder.

“The arrests of both were therefore lawful,” states the long-awaited investigation report.

A similar view was taken in relation to her September 2000 detention.

“There was no evidence to suggest that Ms Thomas was arrested for any other reason than a reasonable suspicion was held by members of the Garda Síochána at that time as to her involvement in the murder of Madame du Plantier [(or of assisting Ian Bailey in his commission of the offence],” it states.

In relation to both arrests, GSOC notes that no successful challenge to the legality of the arrests has been pursued by Ms Thomas.

“GSOC is of the view that the aforementioned arrests and periods of detention concerning Jules Thomas were lawful and that the required custody regulations were complied with.” it said.

Ms Thomas had complained of aggressive and hostile behaviour to her by gardaí, claiming that some told her Mr Bailey had confessed to the murder.

She said one of two named detectives told her while in custody that Mr Bailey would kill her next, and that the same detective later made a late-night phone call telling her to “get the fuck out, get the fuck out”.

GSOC said some details about matters complained of, about the arrests of her and Mr Bailey, could not be fully established because of the non co-operation of a number of gardaí, principally from detective ranks.

The GSOC report highlighted that the significant numbers of missing witness statements and exhibits in connection with the murder inquiry included the original memo of interview following Ms Thomas’s 1997 arrest and an original February 1997 witness statement made by her.

The two arrests of Ian Bailey’s partner Jules Thomas in connection with the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder were lawful, GSOC has found.

GSOC concern over missing exhibits

By Sean O’Riordan

GSOC investigators said it is “a matter of grave concern” to them that a large number of original statements and exhibits relating to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation are missing.

However, in their report, they say this is likely due to a lack of administration and management and there’s no evidence of high-level corruption by gardaí.

The GSOC report states that in 2013 its investigators received documentation from the gardaí which outlined an extensive list of significant documents — including witness statements and 22 exhibits — that can no longer be located.

These include a blood-spattered gate taken from close to where Ms Du Plantier’s body was found; a French wine bottle discovered in a field next to the murder scene; and a black overcoat belonging to Ian Bailey.

A total of 139 original statements are missing from witnesses and include original memos of interviews with Jules Thomas and Marie Farrell.

In addition, witness statements were taken by the French police from a number of people but only typed copies of witness statements were held by the Garda Síochána.

Meanwhile, GSOC investigators also discovered that other “miscellaneous items” are missing which include a diary belonging to Ian Bailey and tape recordings/transcripts of conversations between Ian Bailey and a foreign journalist.

The GSOC report also expressed concern that there are pages missing from the original garda ‘Jobs Books’ in relation to the murder investigation.

The A4-sized jobs books form a complete record of all activity undertaken in respect of a major or critical incident investigation and the rationale for the decisions made in relation to the direction of inquiries.

There were more references to Mr Bailey than any other person of interest in the jobs books in the first month of the murder investigation.

GSOC said their concern is further compounded by the fact that the specific pages missing are from the time when Mr Bailey seems to have first been identified as a potential suspect and as such they are potentially very significant.

Forensic scientist Brian Craythorne found several pages had been removed from the Jobs Book, possibly by cutting with scissors. He found that the front fly sheet, the pages numbered 1 to 7 and pages 10 and 11 were missing.

It was noted during the review of the jobs books by GSOC that there were a number of issues about the actual records which could not be explained.

These included the numbering such as Job number 277 jumping to 288 on the next page but there were no apparent missing pages. A number of pages were glued together with nothing in between them, meaning that the page numberings were also out of sequence.

GSOC said that, at this stage, their investigators had received no explanation from anyone within An Garda Síochána as to when the pages were removed, or how this was done, by whom and for what purpose.

GSOC investigators said it is “a matter of grave concern” to them that a large number of original statements and exhibits relating to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder investigation are missing.

n Cork 

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