Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s killer ‘knelt over’ her dead body the morning after murder
Journalist and author Nick Foster, who wrote a book about the notorious cold case, said he was given new information which could finally solve the mystery
Click for Sound PierreLouis Baudey-Vignaud outside court following the conviction of Ex-journalist Ian Bailey for the murder of his mother Sophie Toscan du Plantier in 1996
A garda blunder which enabled the ‘killer’ to gain access to the crime scene has hampered the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder probe for 25 years, it has been sensationally claimed.
Journalist and author Nick Foster, who wrote a book about the notorious cold case, said he was given new information which could finally solve the mystery.
Mr Foster, 55, from Liverpool in the UK, sensationally revealed the details for the first time to this newspaper.
He told the Irish Sunday Mirror that his source claimed the killer was there on the morning after the murder.
He added: “The source said the killer even knelt down over the body of the dead woman.”
The French film-maker, 39, was brutally battered to death at her remote West Cork holiday home on December 23, 1996.
She was savagely beaten with a rock as she fled her attacker, sustaining around 50 blows to the head before a concrete block was dropped onto her skull.
The shocking murder was the subject of two true crime documentary series this year – Sky’s Murder at the Cottage and Netflix’ Sophie: A Murder in West Cork.
Ex-diplomat Foster, who lives in Belgium, said several people have contacted him with information in the months since his book, Murder at Roaringwater, was published.
One tip-off claimed that a silver watch was taken from Sophie’s wrist immediately after the murder and kept as a ‘trophy’.
But he said the most significant piece of information relates to an alleged breach of the Garda cordon and the contamination of the crime scene.
He added: “My source is entirely plausible with impeccable credentials. What he told me made my jaw drop.
“A person, whose name was given to me, was able to penetrate the crime scene on the morning after the murder and even knelt down over the body.
“It took me a while to go through the Garda file looking for clues, but they’re there.
“I went to Ireland to see if it was physically plausible, and it stacked up.
“Every person that has come to me with information I have encouraged to go to the gardai and they have done so except for this source.
“I cannot speak for them but it would be their view that they do not have confidence in An Garda Siochana.”
The author, who speaks fluent French, said he informed a senior member of Sophie’s family what he had learned via video call.
He revealed: “First I was shocked and dismayed, then I started to get angry.
“If I was dismayed, and I’m only writing about it, you can imagine what was going through the family’s minds.
“It pained me to be the messenger with this terrible news. Sophie’s family have never received closure and justice has not been served. It’s very difficult to deal with.”
Gardai have interviewed several possible witnesses in the wake of the TV documentaries but admit their work has been complicated by a flood of unfounded rumours.
Officers in Bantry are investigating social media claims that Sophie was killed by a now deceased retired Garda, who it is alleged she had an affair with.
Mr Foster said: “There are three rumours flying around that simply aren’t true. It wasn’t a hitman, it wasn’t a dead Garda, and there was no man from continental Europe wearing a beret. We all know the postmortem was left too late, the body was left open overnight, and windy and wet weather blew fibres away.
“But that’s not all. You are not going to be able to prosecute this case without explaining why no DNA was found at the crime scene.
“For there to be a satisfactory conclusion to this case all the truth of this case needs to come out, not just 80 or 90% of it.
“Sophie’s family were badly let down and so were the Irish people.
“This has left a stain on the landscape of West Cork.”
Manchester-born former journalist Ian Bailey was arrested twice over Sophie’s death, in February 1997 and January 1998, but he was never charged. The then Director of Public Prosecutions ruled in 2001 there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.
Bailey, 64, was found guilty of murder in absentia by a three-judge French court in Paris in 2019 and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
The Irish courts refused to extradite him. Detectives from the serious crime review team are now examining the 4,000-page case file in a scoping exercise to determine whether a cold case review is needed.
Sophie’s son Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud raised the possibility of such a review when he met with senior gardai in Schull in October.
Mr Bailey has written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris requesting a cold case review, which he says will prove his innocence.
A petition submitted by publicist Amanda Large in support of Mr Bailey, and signed by 30,000 people, also calls for a review of the Garda investigation.
Commissioner Harris will decide in the new year whether to order a full cold-case review after considering the report from the serious crime review team. Sophie’s family and friends will hold a series of private memorial services to mark the 25th anniversary of her killing near the isolated cottage she loved to call home.
A wreath of fresh lilies will be laid at the stone Celtic stone cross that marks the spot where her body was discovered, and her family will hold a service in Paris. Mr Foster has followed the case for more than a decade and believes this latest revelation will prompt French authorities to take action.
He said: “I know the way this will be received in France and President Macron will put pressure on the Taoiseach.
“This mistake should have been admitted, and the investigation could have progressed on that basis.
“Sophie’s killer hasn’t spent five minutes in prison for this brutal crime, and her poor family has suffered every single day for 25 years.
“Sophie loved Ireland, it’s where she felt happiest. It’s also where she should have been safest.”
The Irish Sunday Mirror asked An Garda Siochana if any unauthorised person entered the crime scene at Toormore on the morning of December 23, 1996.
A Garda spokesman said: “A Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier remains active and ongoing.
“An Garda Siochana continues to appeal to anyone who may have any information on this crime to contact the Garda investigation team at Bantry Garda Station 027 20860 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.
“An Garda Siochana has no further comment.”