Sophie death probe moves to fresh witness interviews amid suggestions gardaí may revive immunity provisions in the case
2 hrs ago
The investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier is no longer a reassessment, but has moved into a series of fresh interviews with established witnesses and newly identified potential sources of information.
People who gave Garda statements up to two and a half decades ago are being re-interviewed, sometimes to comment on new areas of interest to gardaí that have arisen in recent times.
Furthermore, the du Plantier re-set is leading to new rounds of Garda interviews with persons of interest identified in recent times — and not just in Cork, but in Dublin and other areas of the country — who have never spoken before.
The expanding nature of enquiries means it is no longer a review of existing evidence and new claims — including regarding bloodied clothes that emerged in the wake of TV documentaries on the case last year.
“This is a live investigation, not a cold case,” a well-placed source said.
The French filmmaker (39) was battered to death with a stone and breeze block on the night on December 22, 1996 at her holiday home in Toormore, near Schull in Co Cork.
The 39-year-old, who was taking a break alone at her holiday cottage in West Cork, was married to French producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a friend of President Jacques Chirac.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has confirmed that separate legal consultations have taken place as to whether the State might enter into plea-bargaining, immunity guarantees, or even revive the witness protection programme with a view to breaking the case.
Some sources are believed to want guarantees in relation to elements of their own past to be overlooked in return for being prepared to testify.
Gardaí already know, for instance, that a person had close links to low-level drug dealing in the local community which could have brought them into contact with the killer on the night Ms du Plantier died.
While some witnesses in the case are dead, it is now commonly known in Schull that a series of current and former residents have been re-interviewed since the start of this year.
Meanwhile, Ian Bailey, who in 2019 was convicted in absentia of Ms du Plantier’s murder by a Paris court in proceedings deemed “a farce” by his defence solicitor, has been re-housed by Cork County Council.
He has moved into a flat above an off-licence in Bantry, it is understood — though Mr Bailey refused to discuss his circumstances or the case when contacted by the Sunday Independent this week, offering only “no comment”.
Mr Bailey, a self-described poet, had been living temporarily in Glengariff after a parting of the ways with his former partner, Welsh artist Jules Thomas, over a year ago.
She remains in the home she occupied before meeting Bailey at The Prairie in Liscaha, Schull, more than a mile from the holiday home of Ms du Plantier’s son, Pierre-Louis Baudey.
The latter emotionally appealed on the Late Late Show last September for people to come forward in the case — even after a lapse of two and a half decades.
The appeal directly led to several fresh fields of investigation, some throwing new light on previously-known aspects of the case.
The Gardaí have always regarded the murder as a live investigation, despite Mr Bailey repeatedly writing to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, to demand a cold case review that he hopes would clear his name.
Certain evidence submitted to the French trial in 2019 — which resulted in Mr Bailey being sentenced to 25 years in jail for the murder, although the courts here have refused to extradite him — was redacted on the basis that the investigation remained live.
This included large amounts of the evidence of former State pathologist Dr John Harbison, who died in 2020.